I've been reading articles for a few months now about the state of publishing in the USA and let's just say the ground is shaking. (Here's a recent LONG article about it.) The industry has been in trouble for a while. They keep putting more money into big name best seller types and squeezing out people who can't produce the best sellers and giving less chance to what we call mid-list authors.
Apparently less people are reading books - there's more and more competition for our free time attention. The strange and interesting thing is that all the ebook type devices (kindle, nook, ipad, etc) is that sales are up. While this is good news, the publishers are in a mess. Massive competition exists for the few dollars a book brings in and how it is divided up (publisher, agent, seller, author).
The ebooks are potentially adding pictures, videos, and graphics to regular books to make them more alluring to people into that AND to be able to possibly charge a little extra for those particular books.
Amazon and I think the Apple people are offering authors a unique chance to sell direct to the public. In the past, "self publishing" has really had a negative reputation, but some already established authors are making some good money on posting their own work for sale direct. This is a dramatic development.
I personally make no predictions about where this is all going to land and who is going to get paid what by whom. That is for the big dogs to decide. But as an aspiring book author and published short story writer, I feel for the first time a glimmer of hope I haven't felt for a while. To be well respected in the past, you absolutely had to follow the agent/publisher route. As a person who knows how to layout and design a book, I've wondered about the wisdom of doing so. I know professional editing is worth the price and the polish you get, but the selling direct to the audience and cutting out all the people who get a cut of the book price. Wow! Revolutionary stuff going on these days. I wonder if I will get to join in someday.