Here's a great article (subscription required) by Jason Fry in The Wall Street Journal. He's gathered thoughts and opinions from many of his readers to speculate a bit about the future of writing. My favorite excerpts (with my own thoughts in bold below a few):
Cookbooks are the most analogous to the music album. I would love to be able to choose just the recipes in the area I am most interested.
...there's a service that lets me do just that (buy portions of technical manuals), although at a steep price: O'Reilly's Safari.
I never thought Safari's price was all that expensive, but that's probably because I think of it in terms of the price of the print books you're gaining access to; someone comparing it to all the free content that's available would obviously have a very different opinion.
I would love to be able to buy a chopped-up version of (Alexander Hamilton's) biography, where I could pick and choose the parts of Hamilton's life I would want to own and read again.
This definitely highlights some of the new burdens publishers are going to have to assume if they want to succeed in the future: thoroughly tagging and atomizing content. The closest analogy is indexing, but we're going to need the equivalent of "indexing on steroids" to achieve this goal of absolute content granularity. It can (and will!) be done, but it will require publishers to make a significant investment in this part of the process.
...he (a business book author) can only earn dollars and reputation by publishing it as a book, even if the whole idea could have been expressed in a few sentences. In an ideal world authors would be compensated in proportion to the number of times a reader said, "Wow, I never thought of it that way before!" Monetize that, and you've got your text revolution.
I have been a subscriber to WSJ.com for many years and dropped my Wall Street Journal subscription years ago.
Sounds very familiar. I too dropped the print subscription for the online one a few years ago.