crystal-ballOn SFSignal, a number of authors and editors were asked to present their view of where publishing will be in ten years. These prognosticators include Cheryl Morgan, Neil Clarke, Gordon Van Gelder, Nick Mamatas, Lou Anders, and Tim Pratt. As might be expected, they have somewhat differing points of view, though they tend to agree that print books will still be around at least to some extent even as e-books become a more prominent form of publication.

Cheryl Morgan’s point of view is self-confessedly dystopian—she predicts that net neutrality will go down in flames, and we will be more or less at the mercy of the major media conglomerates to purchase our e-books.

Meanwhile there will be a thriving market in amateur self-publishing. We’ll all have to do it through Facebook, because no one will be able to afford to have a personal website anymore, so the fiction we write will be full of annoying, animated ads for online games, and Facebook will own the copyright on our work, but huge numbers of people will publish there anyway, because they can, and because there is no alternative. The path to success will be to get sufficient Likes for your Facebook fiction that you’ll be able to bid to ghost-write a new celebrity novel.

It strikes me as a little too silly to be plausible, but no one could accuse her of not thinking big.

Neil Clarke thinks a lot of things will stay the same, but the increasing digital nature of media will see some changes to book contracts and the expansion of self-publishing and subscription models. Lou Anders and Tim Pratt have mostly similar points of view. Gordon Van Gelder essentially punts the question, saying he has no real idea other than “It’s going to be wild.”

Like Clarke, Nick Mamatas sees independent publishing, self-publishing, and print-on-demand decreasing the importance of major publishers. He sees at least one major publisher “crumbling back into its component imprints,” and e-book pricing falling accordingly. Publisher overhead, he points out, is ridiculously high and prone to trimming down. (And he produces my favorite quote of the article: “The major houses are pigs and some of them are going to die. We should gleefully bathe in their blood and fat!”)

It’s pretty hard to make reasonable predictions ten years into the future—who would have predicted where we are now back in 2001? But I’m definitely in agreement with Gordon Van Gelder: It’s going to be wild.

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