I personally think we're a long way from an e-book only world, but with news of the kindle, Sony reader, and writers like Joe Konrath hyping their kindle adventures, I'd like to know how people would envision this world.

Clearly physical bookstores would no longer exist.

Would there be a need for publishers? If all books were equally placed within e-book stores, what role would publishers play other than simply vetting or putting their stamp of approval on books?

Do people think an e-book only world would be a good thing or bad thing for writers? For readers?

My own take, it would be a disaster for most writers. The e-book stores would be a dumping ground for the 100s of thousands of unpublished books that currently end up in places like iUniverse. With 100s of thousands of books flooding the kindle store and other e-book stores, mostly only books from established bestsellers would be bought, much more so than even today, with the midlist dead. Now independent bookstores handsell and recommend books from lesser known writers that they've discovered, and this gives midlist writers a chance to break out, but how would that happen if these bookstores didn't exist? And how would reviewers pick books to review if publishers no longer existed?? I think reviewers would have no choice but to stick with the recognized names.

Far from the paradise that writers like Joe Konrath are currently paint this, I think if this future did come about it would kill the careers of writers like Joe, myself and anyone else who hadn't already made it to the upper echelon.

Like to hear what other people think.

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One of the biggest areas of debate in the file sharing issue is how much revenue is "lost?"

From my personal experience I see a lot of people downloading songs that they would never have paid any money for. In some ways it's very similar to listening to them on the radio. Sometimes this does translate into going to see a band in concert. Sometimes it even raises a musicians profile enough to get a better advance on the next recording or sell songs to commercials and so on.

When the last U2 album came out, how many people downloaded it instead of buying it? The same number who would have shoplifted it from a CD store? Certainly plenty of people downloaded it, but the vast majority weren't lost sales because those people would simply have done without hearing the album if they'd had to pay for it.

John D is right that a few authors (and a bunch of bands) have managed to increase their revenues with the use of free online give-aways. It's troubling that kids today can't see the difference between items offered for sale by their creators and those offered for free, but like every generation before us we'll just have to bitch about the kids. (someday these kids will be old like us and they'll be bitching about the next generation).

It does require some faith in our fellow human beings. Yikes.
For what it's worth I've been riding Japanese subways and trains the last ten days, from Kyoto to Tokyo, and being the curious sort have been observing my fellow passengers--a huge sample--on the physical books to cell phone/pda usage ratios, and even here in the land of the cell phone novel it's a fifty-fifty split with age showing no discernible effect. (Could be all the school kids doing their homework to explain the lack of an age effect though.)
I think book culture in general is more healthy in at least Japan and Taiwan, than in America. Maybe I'm wrong as I've only been in Japan a total of a month and Taiwan about five and a half weeks, so it's just an impression.

It's worth noting, I think, that Japan's population is dominated by the elderly.
My impression is both book culture and electronic culture are healthier in Japan, and that's based on four trips here (for maybe a total of 12 weeks) plus a wife and in-laws who are Japanese.

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