This is a topic in which all academics have a vested interest. I've just signed a book contract which dictates writing obligations for the immediate future and then, of course, book promotion in the long term. For me, books have a future. But what is its shape?
A recent article in Canada's magazine of the year, the Walrus, by Jon Evans, called "Apocalypse Soon" explores the shape of a digital future on publishers and printed books. There's a lot of data to discuss: the failure of ebooks; the digitization of libraries; questions of copyright. All publishers and authors are chary of free downloads. But there's evidence that offering part or all of a book on line actually increases offline sales. I did this with Jesus' Family Values and it seems to have been somewhat successful.
Publishers are adapting. I note that Penguin now offers books for sale on its website directly to authors. By the same token, authors could offer their digitized books directly to the public without the intervention of peer-review or publishers. But then the onus would be on the public to sift through mounds of self-publication. No question that change is on the horizon for both authors and publishers.