Adam Davidson offers some interesting remarks. My take is a little more radical. I expect two or three major publishers, with stacked names (“Penguin Random House”), and they will be owned by Google, Apple, Amazon, and possibly Facebook, or their successors, which perhaps would make it “Apple Penguin Random House.” Those companies have lots of cash, amazing marketing penetration, potential synergies with marketing content they own, and very strong desires to remain focal in the eyes of their customer base. They could buy up a major publisher without running solvency risk. For instance Amazon revenues are about twelve times those of a merged Penguin Random House and arguably that gap will grow.
There is no hurry, as the tech companies are waiting to buy the content companies, including the booksellers, on the cheap. Furthermore, the acquirers don’t see it as their mission to make the previous business models of those content companies work. They will wait.
Did I mention that the tech companies will own some on-line education too? EduTexts embedded in iPads will be a bigger deal than it is today, and other forms of on-line or App-based content will be given away for free, or cheaply, to sell texts and learning materials through electronic delivery.
Much of the book market will be a loss leader to support the focality of massively profitable web portals and EduTexts and related offerings.
There is this funny thing called antitrust law, but I think these companies are popular enough, and associated closely enough with cool products — and sometimes cheap products — to get away with this.