Since you really want to know, here, revealed for the first time, is the true future of publishing and writing.
If you want to know how I know, let’s just say I’ve considered evidence from events, articles and trends over many years as a writer, and applied them to a foundational knowledge of psychology, economics, politics and other academic disciplines. That’s right, I’m totally making this up.
So what do we writers face ten, twenty, fifty or more years in the future?
First, the mainstream publishing industry will virtually disappear. Their primary business is printed books, and by 2030, less than five percent of all books will be printed—the rest will be read electronically. The big guys will try to sell ebooks, but digital publishing eliminates monopolies of distribution, allowing companies and individuals to compete directly with those top-heavy monoliths and undercut their pricing. In other words, the big six and their ilk are cooked. Today’s top editors and executives will go into marketing jobs at mid-size manufacturing companies. Agents and lower level staff will wait tables at places like Fridays and Olive Garden while they try to break into community theater.
Ebooks will move exponentially towards interactivity. You won’t even need fingers. You will simply say, “Resume,” and the book will jump to where you left off last time. You will have a variety of choices regarding the plot, and will pick the one that interests you most—and if none do, you’ll be invited to dictate your own. (Like, “I’d rather that Bob didn’t die at the end…”) You will be able to have the text read to you, in the appropriate characters’ voices. (For example, “Let’s try Mary as a depressed, alcoholic housewife.”)
Ebook fiction will no longer be written by a single author, but will be compiled by teams of “writers” (alias high school graduates who may have majored in English), each assigned to a particular story thread. A computer program will synthesize the writing to make it sound like it came from one person. In this way new titles will produced in a couple of days. The writers will be employees of large financial groups, will make minimum wage and will not be allowed to unionize. Nonfiction ebooks will be completely computer written, because by then they’re just a bunch of stats anyway. Poetry ebooks? Seriously? Gone by 2030.
Printed books, those that still exist that is, will go completely retro. Not just retro back to the 1990s, but like back to pre-technology literature days of, say, the 1960s and before. They’ll average 500 pages and be filled with deep characters and meaningful themes. The inside pages will be printed on old presses, and the covers will be turned out one by one, by craftspeople trained for decades in the arts of bookbinding, calligraphy and leather tooling. Writers who opt to serve the teeny tiny printed book world will spend years working on a novel, and won’t expect fame or wealth in return. The books these people produce will take their place beside live theater and classical music, and become part of the refuge of old, rich, generally sad people who lament the loss of art to corporate interests.
Some publishers will try to put interactivity into printed books (touch “Chapter 5” in the table of contents and the pages will automatically flip to the selected spot), but it will give readers nightmares and they’ll have to give it up.
By 2060, the printed book will be virtually extinct. A few will be displayed in museums and in pictures on the web. The internet, by then, will be set free from the constraints of the physical device. The necessary circuits will be implanted into each newborn child’s brain before the parents can take it home from the hospital. The government will beam ebooks and other carefully selected programming directly into our descendants. An old writer of printed novels will figure this out and write a book about it. She will be detained by authorities and never heard from again.
See? I’ve figured it all out.
 And by the way, as you read your ebook, it will spy on you and report any suspicious activity to the NSA.