When considering the future of the business from a publisher’s perspective, it must be noted that this is extremely hypothetical.
Too much of the business is in a state of flux to offer any concrete examples (provable or otherwise) of what it will look like, but here are some educated guesses.
Based on the availability of POD technologies, what is going to happen is that the independant publisher is going to be able to compete to e certain degree with the bigger publishers. By being knowledgable of the different aspects of publishing, an Ooligan grad will be able to handle all aspects of a job, ranging from acquisitions (I have several friends that are working on manuscripts, and I’m sure you do too) to editing to design. The software is readily available and the work is limited only to the amount of time that you want to spend on a given project.
However, the big publishers will have to widen the scope of their own publsihing efforts, taking into consideration all of the various online methods of community building and author support. The fittest will survive, and they will be the ones that cultivate a good working relationship with the author, providing social network access, alternative methods of author readings (podcasts as freemiums on websites), and cross-media applications of their intellectual properties.
A press will be viewed as successful only if it is able to manage all of these different avenues (multiple ebook formats, POD versions of the book, and collector editions for the hardcore fan). Books will not go away (as long as people like vinyl, there will be people who read books), but the alternatives will bring more readers into the fold, so publishers will have to be ready. There will be companies that have dedicated social networking staffs who manage social components to marketing campaigns, as well as designers well versed in Xml, xHtml, and epub formats, and they will work with all versions throughout the entire design and production arc of a book’s creation.
Online marketing will no longer be an optional component of publicity, but will be the cornerstone of a book’s life cycle. And I wouldn’t be surprised if some publishers get their own island in second life. I’m just saying….