At one time, record stores and CDs were plentiful and everywhere. You could not possibly fathom that they would go out of business so fast (actually the CD had a shorter lifespan than the vinyl record). The basic goal of the modern day MP3 player is still the same, for you to listen to music. The experience is no less. Its now all about convenience and portability.
The publishing industry is going to go through the same thing. Very large book chain stores will find it inherently very hard to compete. The profit margins have dwindled, the cost of utilities is going up, real-estate rates are still high, it takes a lot of money to hire people and pay for bills. So Borders though 10 years ago was a phenomenal success, but rightfully so, they should have seen it coming. Somethings are inevitable.
When Borders or the large Barnes and Noble stores came into existence, many small book stores had to close down. Remember the movie You’ve Got Mail!(http://en.wikipedia.org/
Who survived? Those who carved a niche. I personally (emphasis supplied) do not know of a single used bookstore that went out of business. Others reinvented themselves, by catering to a very specific vertical (like Old and Rare books), etc. and survived.
With the eminent closing of Border, the book industry has slowly been morphing its business model. As more and more digital devices are sold, electronic books are taking a hold of us. You will see less and less people reading a book on their couches, and see more of them using their iPads. Sign of times (that are evolving).
More and more colleges and universities are preferring to distribute syllabus and reading in digital format, books though recommended (college professors would be without a job if they did not recommend books), are available in digital format now-a-days.
At some point in time, even the physical paper book will be threatened. No one can predict when – but it will happen. The newspaper industry has already seen that happen. 10-12 years ago, no pundit could accurately predict the fall of Borders, and look what happened today. Who knows, a cataclysmic change for the worse could happen to the book/publishing industry, in way we did not fathom (at present)…. only a few years from now.
The amount of physical books published will continue to circulate in and be sold in secondary markets (used book stores, etc.). Bookshelves still look beautiful in any settings and in some ways you are identified by the books you have.
In today’s ever evolving digital economy, carrying 10 books with you in a backpack is just not preferred. Why you could have a 100 books in your Kindle or iPad, and no trees were cut-down. No fuel wasted in transporting them to various book stores, much more cleaner and greener industry.
In the coming years, the physical book would be totally cease of exist (though I find that difficult to come to terms with), however, it could see a very large reversal of fortune for sure (this much I am sure of). Only question is when? To which some may answer – its now – its happening as we read.