It's inevitable. The unanimous belief is that it will be decidedly digital. And it doesn't take an industry analyst to tell it's definitely going to be different.
Here are some clear attempts at traditionals takinig stabs at figuring out what that future might be:
Macmillan recently announced, what amounts to a massive paradigm shift in its business plan, to begin an experimental shift from a publishing business to what seems like that of a tech company. With a high profile hire of a former e-book company CEO and a bag with (reportedly) more than $100 million dollars in it, this new venture will consist of Macmillan acquiring smaller ed-tech start-up that will operate autonomously under the Macmillan banner on new technology
As is often the case, a great discussion of it is offered by Passive Guy here
In another interesting story, bestselling Sci-fi author, John Scalzi, will have his latest work released by Tor as a serialized e-release.
In what the publisher is calling a “unique new project,” Tor Books will publish The Human Division, the next book by bestselling science fiction author John Scalzi, as a weekly serialized e-book, before releasing it as a complete hardcover and e-book. The e-book serials will begin in December 2012 and run through February 2013. The print and full e-book editions will be available in the late spring or early summer.
Called an “experiment” by Tor senior editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden, the editor also described The Human Division as an “episodic novel.” He explained that the book will be published “like the episodes of a good high-end cable drama, each one will have enough internal integrity to work as an enjoyable chunk of story on its own, but each will advance a ‘season-long’ storyline as well.”
While serializations are nothing new, particularly in the indie e-pub world, it's a pretty big departure for both an established author like Scalzi (who doesn't really need marketing gimmicks, which you could argue this is) or for one of the most prominent Sci-fi publishers out there.
With unrestricted freedom in e-pubbing, many indies take advantage of serializations and shorter works not generally represented by big publishing. Accomplished writers such as Blake Crouch and Barry Eisler seem to do pretty well with them, but if you read a lot of shorts (as I do) you may have noticed that there's more than a smaller percentage of other readers that don't seem to care much for them, as is evident by the many Amazon reviews where buyers often complain about short length, disclosed or not.
The Scalzi/Tor release will be something I'll follow and discuss later.