Before jumping on the author eWagon, keep in mind that piracy, fraud and just plain greed are obstacles you may have to navigate around. For instance, one self-published author posted recently how her book ended up on both Amazon U.S. and Amazon U.K., all well and good—except for the fact that someone else had uploaded the book pretending to be her, hoping to reap the profits. When the real author tried to get the situation remedied and upload her sequel, she was told she wasn't the real author.
Lee Goldberg (author of the Monk tie-in books), also noted that Kobo had automatically decreased the price on his eBooks via Smashwords without his knowledge or approval, leading to a potential loss of thousands of dollars in sales. All because he hadn't opted out of distribution to that vendor.
While we're on the eSubject (yes, I know that construct is getting old), Publishers Weekly has a report from the 2011 London Book Fair about the opening seminar, "Publishers in the digital age will be irrelevant." Panelists offered both a spirited defense of the publishing world's achievements and a warning that "publishers today lack imagination and have been too quick to cede the next generation to other companies."
Meanwhile, literary agent Rachelle Gardner tried to answer the question of "What will the role of agents be in the future of publishing?", and concluded that agents and traditional publishing are still going to be around for a while, although their roles will be changing. Some agencies will function as consultants for authors pursuing self-publishing by arranging editing, design, digital formatting, printing, etc. Others are looking at functioning more like publishers themselves.
It is indeed a Brave New World (ironically, one of the Top 10 Banned Books in the U.S. in 2010).
(From Jeffrey Koterba)