Over on Time Magazine, Lev Grossman has written an article looking at the future of the publishing industry in the new "digital age."
Grossman touches on and ties together a number of related topics. He discusses the way that vanity publishing has largely lost its stigma over the last few years, going from the last refuge of the talentless to just another way to get books noticed. He talks about the outdated advance and consignment systems that have constrained traditional publishing since the Great Depression, and how e-books might represent a way to bypass some of those constraints. And he mentions fan fiction, which is written and read for free in huge quantities.
Essentially, Grossman predicts that the future will be just like today only more so, as aspiring writers rely less on the "Old Publishing" system of manuscripts and literary agents and more on the less traditional means of Internet and vanity publishing. He also predicts changes in the content of books based on the influences and form factors of the new media:
Like fan fiction, it will be ravenously referential and intertextual in ways that will strain copyright law to the breaking point. Novels will get longer–electronic books aren’t bound by physical constraints–and they’ll be patchable and updatable, like software.
The article is interesting, even if the predictions are not especially novel (pun not intended).