So I didn't attend the Digital Book World conference this week, but I did read this drinking game, so I feel totally qualified to offer advice to publishers about the ebook future. My one piece of advice is this:
Go read MS Paint Adventures.
This is a webcomic, sort of, that started as interactive fiction--in the first couple of stories, readers could suggest things for the characters to do next, and the author, Andrew Hussie, would pick a suggestion and go with it. It doesn't really operate on this paradigm anymore, but the stories are still written like a mock computer game, with puzzles to solve and bosses to fight. He publishes several pages every day or so, and the scope of the most recent two adventures is just dazzling: Problem Sleuth runs to 1700 pages, published over a year, and Homestuck started in April 2009 and is still going! The first's a gritty noir, the second the tale of four friends playing a computer game that will destroy--and save--the world. Both are full of whimsy and imagination and time loops. YE GODS THE TIME LOOPS WILL DESTROY YOUR BRAIN. It's just great writing, great art--both have some animated pages, and Homestuck even has embedded music (written by collaborating readers) and sometimes adorbs little Flash games. Which I am terrible at, because I have the spatial sense of an ambrosia salad.
What I think publishers could glean from this--besides hours and hours of goofy entertainment--is a sense of the possibility inherent in digital storytelling. MS Paint Adventures are much closer to novels than films, if only because the reader controls the speed of the experience (I have been forcibly limiting myself to an hour and a half of Homestuck a day for the past week or so)--but there's a multimedia, collaborative, friendly experience to it that ebook creators would do well to emulate. I would love if this became the paradigm for an entirely new genre of novel.
Of course, it's all free, and therein lies the rub. I should buy a T-shirt. This one, you think? Or this?