There are plenty of articles to read on this subject (read a great summary of the e-book situation here, and about e-books and kidlit here).
However, despite the myriad of opinions and resources available, the subject still comes up in every single panel and conference I've attended. And the biggest reason for this is: no one REALLY knows what’s going to happen.
Oh sure, there are plenty of very true facts, both pro and con, to add weight to the speculation.
The epic novel might make a comeback due to cost of productivity going down. Smaller presses are blossoming. Unknown authors have a chance to build audience. The invention of the mass market was supposed to end the hardcover (or video killed the radio star, whichever you prefer), and it didn’t – different genres simply boomed. Kindles really suck for research – you can’t underline and highlight. Backlist or out of print titles are now brought back to life. People become more impulsive when it comes to buying books when available at the tip of their fingers – and at the same time, physical book sales are down, which means advances are down, and authors are making less money – but maybe that’s just the economy?
It is undeniable that the book industry is changing. Personally, I don’t see that as a bad thing. I like the fact that a smaller press will take a chance on a novel in e-book or trade paper that a Big Six won’t publish in hardcover, and, from our agency’s best-selling authors, I haven’t seen royalties decrease in the slightest due to e-books: they’ve only gone up.
But really, my personal take from my personal experience is: this is exciting – and depressing, all at the same time.
What really struck home for me this weekend was this:
I found it in a "free books" pile at my local library. I thought it was funny. I picked it up, but, instead of putting it back down, I took it home because of this page (which changes all the "he" pronouns to "she"):
I ADORE used books. The smell of them, the feel of them, the footprints left behind. I love to follow along and try and imagine the stories that go with the scribblings. And you can’t do that with a Kindle.
Libraries are closing; so are bookstores. I would be devastated by the loss of physical books. But maybe I’m just in the cassette generation of publishing; maybe it’s just time to move on. After all, there are clear advantages!
And so it goes on.