I read a very interesting article on how the book business may well change: Linky-winky
Fascinating stuff, and a little frightening too. The traditional, comfortable model of having some big business come along, take your precious work, pay you a chunk of money, and then go away print up thousands of copies and ship them around the world - is something you grow used to.
Now, the future may soon be very different. Your precious work isn't printed up and shipped anywhere...instead, it's a licenced digital file, that will end up in the equivalent of a literary jukebox that will 'play' (print out there and then, with nice glossy cover, properly bound just like a normal paperback) whatever you select.
You should read the article...it analizes who exactly in the 5 node delivery-chain (Writer, Agent, Publisher, Retailer, Reader) should be the one quivering away in his shoes.
Obviously from my crudely Photoshopped images above (ahhh, gotta love P-shop) you can guess it's the retailer who would have the most to fear.
Those large book shops would have to downsize, no longer holding stock on shelf space, instead having a load of terminals - internet cafe-styled - where punters could sit down and make their jukebox selection and grab a coffee whilst they wait a few minutes for the book to emerge, freshly printed, from a slot.
Just like a mars bar.
My guess is the role of publishers and agents would remain unchanged. Their job of filtering content, signing up the good and rejecting the crap would continue.
But you know, I got mixed feelings though about this though. I like bookshops. I really do. But if the bookshop experience becomes little more than surfing through digital offerings on a screen...? Surely you might as well just save your money on the bus trip downtown, the over-priced crappacino whilst you wait, and buy from Amazon instead.
One thing's for sure though. The industry is right on the cusp of a change. Whether the future is dinky little Print-On-Demand coffe shops, or downloaded digital content on eReaders...or both, it's coming fast.
I can feel the approaching wind-rush.