I can't tell you what the future holds for photobooks, I just hope there is one.
My own Internet addiction aside, I'd still rather flip through a physical book in my hands than scroll through images on a screen. And why is that such a bad thing? The Internet isn't just about spreading images digitally, it's also democratizing self-publishing itself, making it easy and affordable to create more books without the barriers of a big publishing house or a gallery. The system isn't perfect, but even with all of its problems, it's a matter of time before color issues and printing quality get to the level we'd expect from any mainstream publisher.
I know a bit about this. More people have seen my work from my self-produced Sadkids zines than on any gallery wall. Granted the production quality is only as good as what I can get from my Xerox Docucolor printer. But that's OK for now. The purpose of a zine has less to do with the quality of printing, and more to do with creating an inexpensive way to make a cool, collectible publication that gets your photos in front of people. For "emerging" photographers (sorry, what are we calling ourselves now?) there may be no better way to share images. It's much more exciting to have a tangible item that you can pick up and thumb through rather than it is to click, click, click, click around someones vanity site. It makes your work more memorable too.
Of course, that experience comes at a price. Creating a zine isn't easy. It takes a little money, a lot of time and some design skills. I've been working on my latest issue on and off for over a year. But it is all becoming easier and (hopefully) cheaper to do, and I think think it's just a matter of time before publishing-on-demand books look awesome enough to push this kind of guerilla self-publishing to the next level.
My only concern in a POD world is the loss of editors. If the whole world is DIY, where are the quality checks? Look at the abundance of garbage on YouTube. No editors = lots of bad stuff. Maybe I'm just hung up on the validation of a "real publisher" asking to contribute photos to a book. It feels great when someone recognizes your work enough to want to publish it for you. But if photographers stay mindful of what they are publishing, rather than just being thrilled that they can publish themselves, we could be on the verge of a new world of really great books, zines, or something in between.
Is technology endangering the printed photobook? On the contrary, I hope it'll save them.
See more of the discussion HERE.