I don’t think the format of book-in-paper will ever go away entirely. I do believe we will see that format change over the next decade or so, however. Printed books will become the things you buy when you want to keep them, or have them signed, or… ebooks will be the read-once and move on versions. Electrons are unobtrusive after all, that book in the stack on the nightstand mocking you for not having read it yet…
I can easily see the market for print being ultra-disposable (the paperbacks you find in airports and supermarkets), or collectible. Print on Demand is changing the world of publishing, and although hardcovers aren’t, quite, available yet, if there is truly a demand, it will happen. In the meantime, the trade paperbacks look good, feel good in the hand, and are far more durable than mmpb (mass market paper back, lest I fall into the jargon trap more than I already have).
How about ebooks? Well, there are a couple sites I know of that will sell you a ‘signed’ ebook, but it’s not the same. I know I plan to have one or two of my favorite authors ever sign my tablet when I see them at a convention later this year. But it’s small, so only the few signatures I can fit on will make the grade there. I’ve never been a collector (Ok, I’m getting there with the pulp paperbacks, but that’s more the really-bad-so-bad-they-are-good covers) so having books signed and in paper means less to me unless the author is special.
But I know that there are those who prefer print, and do collect, and for them, I suspect, print will always be an option. What books look like may change – it is changing already! – but the feel of paper and smell of a book is never going away.
Ever wanted to own one of my books in print? Three are available in that format now, the latest being The Eternity Symbiote. It’s a hefty paperback for all that it’s shorter than an average modern novel. You can find it here: The Eternity Symbiote and if you want a signed bookplate, drop me an email with your address and personal message, and I will send it gratis.