Even if you assume print goes away completely, and in the brave new world of the future, everyone prefers reading electronically, I just don't get this. An agent is an agent -- they have a set of skills that basically involve finding good stuff, convincing a few other industry people to spend money on it, and then managing the legal and financial stuff that comes along with that.
- An agent is not an editor.
- An agent is not a copyeditor.
- An agent is not a proofreader.
- An agent is not a cover designer.
- An agent is not a layout designer.
- An agent is not an illustrator.
- An agent is not a marketer.
- An agent is not a publicist. (Different job from previous, different skills.)
- An agent is not a techie book specialist. (A new job we'll need in the brave new world.)
And that's not even taking into account the economies of scale that a publishing house (small or large) has to offer. Once you start bundling books together, and even leaving aside the entire world of print-based bookstores, etc., you can afford to do more in terms of marketing -- pitching pieces to magazines, or radio stations, taking out ads, etc.
Given all that, I just don't get what Kevin and others are talking about, when they envision a world that doesn't need publishers. What am I missing here?