How do I think that e-books are going to affect the future of traditional publishing? Well, if I knew the answer, I think I'd be on the top of every publisher's list to hire! :) In all seriousness, this is a really weighty question that a lot of authors are discussing behind closed-doors. Forget just e-books, what about the future of publishing itself? There are a lot of doomsday articles out there right now, and it's easy to see why: I have been publishing books since 2007, and every year, it gets harder and harder to convince readers to buy them. (And I'm hoping this isn't because of the terrible content inside and no one wants to tell me!) :) It's no secret that people are reading less these days, and people are also feeling the weight of an uncertain economy - and this combination is what is worrisome for authors (I think), not just the e-book revolution.
For me, the e-book situation is a bit like the record industry situation: clearly, we are on the cusp of a huge change, and we all need to figure out how to deal with it. In some (very obvious) ways, this means shifts from in-store book signings to engaging instead with readers online (because there's no book to sign when it's been downloaded on a kindle). I can't tell you how many times I've heard this past week that someone has downloaded the book...I've heard it a lot more often than the fact that someone has picked it up in the store. This is the new wave, and publishers have been slow to adapt. The truth is that they can kick and scream and fight it all they want, but if readers (oh, you glorious readers, I love you!) want something via e-book, they better find a way to give it to them in a way that makes money for the business.
There are other issues that arise with e-books - like how easy it is to upload a manuscript and call it a published novel, and how this will likely crowd the marketplace further. (I'm not taking away from self-publishing, but the truth is that there has been a vetting system in place for a long time, and all things being equal, there are still a lot of benefits to using a traditional publisher. And then, of course, there are the pricing models and Amazon and all of that...which is probably about seven blog posts in one. :))
This, honestly, is all I know: in order for authors to continue to get published - IN ANY FORMAT - readers need to buy their books. It is really that simple. I think that often times readers think the accolade is getting the book out into the world, and yes, it is. But there is a much more complicated equation that then comes into play: mostly, it's about sales and whether or not the author is actually SELLING said book. To be honest, I don't care how people buy books or how people read books. I just want them to read. If not mine, than someone else's. (Though I won't complain if you choose mine!) The only, only, only way to sustain this industry is to buy a book. It seems more complicated, but it's not, at least not in the most basic way. I'm not crazy about reading with a backlight, so I often choose the traditional format, but I'm telling you: just buy, just read. Authors everywhere will be grateful.
As a reader of both traditionally published books (I've bought two in the past week alone!) as well as E-Books I have to say that I agree with Allison! I may not be an author but I am an avid reader and as one have a vested interest in books continuing to be published in multiple formats, so please just keep buying and reading books!