Margaret Atwood gave the keynote at O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing conference. The entire presentation (33 minutes) is available O’Reilly Radar.
Atwood illustrated much of her presentation with hand-drawn images, including the occasional bulleted list. Did you know she was a cartoonist in a previous life? Neither did I. “You’re supposed to do one thing,” she says. “If you do more than that, people get confused.” How true that is.
Anyway, Atwood addresses the many dimensions of technologies and the concern that a disorganized response to the massive changes in prospects for publishing could end up eliminating the author. As noted above, they are a crucial aspect of the publishing ecology, but while the death of one author can be nourishing (she does point out that authors don’t have to be dead), you don’t want them to go extinct.
By the way, she recommends authors supporting themselves by inheriting money, and notes that rock concerts and t-shirts are not an option. I’m not 100% sure about the latter part of that, but it’s true that the marketing and promotion end of that kind of self-management is difficult, and self-publishing is hard enough. Oh, just go watch it.