Cavemen, Gutenberg and the 'New' Stone Tablets
A very similar on-demand revolution is occurring in many other industries. More dollars are spent by people renting movies to watch "On Demand" than by people going out to a movie theater. The music industry saw the same phenomenon occur a few decades ago when more people began listening to music in their homes than going to live performances. CDs and the advent of digital music simply made on-demand music more convenient.
It is not difficult to predict the future of the publishing industry. Machines exist today that take in a computer file on one end and, minutes later, spit out a finished book at the other end. Such machines will soon be found in bookstores, and will alleviate bookstores' perennial dilemma of deciding which books to stock.
Any Book You Want at the Flip of a Switch
Most published books cannot be found on the shelves of any bookstore. For bookstores to stock every published book would mean adding 15 feet of shelf space each day. Stocking all published books will soon not be a problem, however. If the book that you want is not on the shelves of your local bookstore, the clerk will simply press a button, the machine will make a soft whirring sound, and out will pop your book.
The book industry is simply following in the footsteps of the music and movie industries, and undergoing its own "on-demand" revolution. On-demand technologies will cause many industries to evolve their competitive advantages. Current book-printing methods are going the way of stone tablets and cave painting.
Picture a family of Neanderthals standing in their cave, considering how best to propagate their cave paintings. Would they have printed thousands of copies on a printing press, which they would have to carry on their backs? Or, would the Neanderthals have preferred their cave paintings on-demand?