Everybody knows that the rise of electronic books ("e-books") is going to change the nature of publishing, but nobody is really quite certain exactly how. Will e-books drive paper out of business? Will it be good or bad for authors? There's an interesting article in the New York Times today, discussing the comparative economics of e-books versus hardcovers. Out of the twenty-six dollar suggested retail price of a new hardcover, the bookstore's share is half, and out of the publisher's thirteen dollars, the author's share (assuming 15% royalties on hardcovers) is $3.90. This could be a little better with e-books... or it could not, depending on what other expenses have to be covered. And how much royalties the authors get. A lot of people aren't going to be willing to pay $12.99-$14.99 for an e-book, I think, as publishers are about to discover the hard way. There's just too much stuff available free, and while a lot of it is worth every penny of that, there is some really good stuff, too.
And, as the article points out, people buying e-books online are going to kill off bookstores. Or at least make it harder and harder for them to stay alive. That's a real pity-- I love bookstores. (But then, Amazon.com is already threatening to kill off the classic bookstore, Kindle or no.)
I don't think that real books made out of paper will ever die, not completely, but they may become a choice that people make for the aesthetic value, because of the heft and feel of it, while everyday reading (and textbooks) turn to electronic delivery. A book would be like a hand-knit sweater-- something that some people like just because they like it, regardless of the fact that it's more expensive and a little retro.
If you're interested in a related subject, web publishing, it's probably worth a look at what Elizabeth Bear says about it on Charlie Stross' blog. ("I am trying to figure out how the heck to continue doing what I am good at--what I have spent twenty years learning how to do at a professional level--in the face of developing technology.")
But, really, nobody knows.
(Or, check the borg collective thinking about e-books at wikipedia.)