Last week when I was snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain in California I shared a chairlift with a guy in his mid-30's. We were chatting and he asked me where I worked. I explained that I was a writer and that currently I wasn't working anywhere else, I was just writing. The conversation continued like this:
Him - "What do you write?"
Me - "Novels."
Him - "So when you finish them, you sell them online?"
Me - "Yes."
Him - "You mean like ebooks?"
Me - "That's right. And paperbacks, too. But mostly ebooks."
To me this was an astonishing exchange. His very first assumption was that a writer sells his books online, electronically. He didn't assume that I had an agent, or a publisher, or that my books were for sale down at the local bookshop. This was an average American guy, who probably spent the last fifteen years or so downloading his music from iTunes, watching movies instantly on Netflix, and playing online video games. The obvious extension in his mind was to books being sold in the same way. To me it wasn't shocking so much that he would assume I was selling ebooks at all. It was shocking that in his mind, this was the default. Electronic delivery was the norm.
Of course this is only an anecdote, but it definitely points to the direction that publishing is going. Most people still buy paper books. That is still the more normal way to read a novel, but how long is that going to last? Personally, I love paper books and I hope they stick around to some degree forever. Before long, though, they might seem like an anachronism. Maybe it hasn't really happened yet, but pretty soon ebooks really are going to be the new normal.