Times have changed. Now you can self-publish on a number of platforms, advertise your book online, and choose whether you want it to appear in electronic or print-on-demand format - or both. And because of the success of self-published books like Wool, both agents and publishers are now interested in taking advantage of the new ebook-reading market.
Will the success and ease of different platforms - such as Amazon and Smashwords - mean that self-publishing will disappear as an independent entity in ten years? Will it merge seamlessly with traditional publishing until "self" publishing is subsumed within a larger framework?
My guess is probably not. Unlike Jon Fine (see below), I can't see a near future in which the largest publishing houses in the world will give up the ghost. Nor can I see a near future in which every self-published book has a chance to compete with the books backed by Random/Penguin. The problem is not just that the major publishers won't pick up the vast majority of self-published books, it's that the avenues for getting the word out on self-published books, even on Amazon, are becoming increasingly saturated.
No matter what the platform is, or how books are published, there will always be a great divide between those who have self-published and those who have the backing of university presses, well-established niche publishers, or major houses, with their access to national and international media networks. For as long as access to global advertising is restricted to the select few, those who go it alone will have to scramble to get noticed.
Amazon’s Vision for the Future of Self-Publishing