But I do NOT think this evolution of the written word will spell the death of agents. Agents will "simply" operate differently in the future. Today, agents pitch novels and non-fiction books to publishers. In the future, agents will pitch novels and non-fiction books to advertising firms and possibly directly to major advertisers. In the future, the most sought-after agents will be those with established relationships with major ad agencies, major advertisers, and countless minor ones.
So as publishers die off and leave the scene, they will be replaced with advertisers coming onto the book scene. Writers and agents will remain. The change is only in who pays them and the final introduction of ad pages in books ... as has been done for centuries with magazines.
This will not mean that if you get accepted by an agent that you're assured a fat check every month. Not at all. Just as they do today with publishers, your agent will still have to pitch your novel to ad firms. Convince them that your novel is the right one for their clients' products and/or services. And just like today, the hardest novelists to pitch will be the first-time novelists. Agents will have an easier time pitching established novelists since they can point to download numbers of their previous books.
Anyway, the above is what I think will be the future of writing. Publishing will be dead but writing will continue on and I believe be an even greater success than it has ever been in history.
Unfortunately, no agent is doing the above. Due to this, I think I'll have to be the one to do the pitching of my e-novel to advertisers. Someone has to blaze the first trail. Being a marketer myself, I'm probably the right one to do it. On the bright side, not having an agent will enable me to do barter deals with advertisers that agents might not be so interested in procuring since many barter deals don’t lend themselves easily to an agent’s cut.
Now I'm sure that if I succeed, all but the most resistant-to-change agents will follow suit and eventually I will be able to turn over the pitching of my novels to ad firms to one of them. :-) I’ll then do what I hope I do best and that’s work on my next novel, do mindless banter with talk show hosts about my current novel, and feed my ego by meeting fans at conventions. ;-)
Wish me luck!