This is not to say that the book is doomed. But publishers will surely have to change the way they do business. A system that requires the trucking of vast quantities of paper to bookshops and then back to publishers’ warehouses for pulping is environmentally and commercially unsustainable. An industry that spends all its money on bookseller discounts and very little on finding an audience is getting things the wrong way round. Following the strictures of their accountants, the large houses will intensify their concentration on blockbusters. High street bookshops will abandon deep stockholding, becoming mere showrooms for bestsellers and prize-winners. Ever more people will read the same few books. The future of much of the industry will be dominated by electronic distribution, internet marketing to niche audiences, and reading by print-on-demand or hand-held electronic devices. There is opportunity as well as challenge in this model. The roles of editor and publicist, people who can guide the potential reader through the cacophony of background noise to words they’ll want to read, will become ever more important.
I think publishing, to a large extent, has the same problem that art museums and galleries have: They have lost the peculiar talent of the connoisseurs who made them in the first place. Most curators simply don't have the eye or the sensibility of a Duncan Phillips or and Isabella Stewart Gardner. Most publishers these days don't come close to Alfred Knopf when it comes to powers of literary discernment. The same is true of newspapers. The people running them these are distinctly inferior to Pulitzer and Hearst.