The RSS / PDF alliance: Some may call it a revolution that will dramatically affect the publishing industry. Some may view it as a trend that was to be expected. Whatever you call it the combination of RSS and PDF promisses to yield lots of new opportunities for authors, readers and publishers.
Indeed, the famous PDF software Adobe Acrobat (version 7) has RSS capabilities. So what you may say? Blogs have RSS capabilities too. But that's precisely where the bonanza lies. With Acrobat 7 you can convert RSS feeds into PDF documents. First this is a more than welcome improvement as you'll be able to read your favorite feeds off-line. But there is more than this. Derek Franklin (who has a book forthcoming: RSS Domination) suggests that you could easily convert a blog into an e-book. How? Well, assume you run a blog and you are a disciplined writer. You post regularly, each post being, say, one chapter of your book. In a month (say you blog everyday) you have a manuscript up and running. Your blog is RSS compliant. Hence if you own a copy of Acrobat 7 you can convert your blog into a book and distribute it digitally! (Here is a tutorial by an Adobe engineer; see also Robin Good's comments on this RSS/PDF feature).
A further tip: If you don't own Acrobat 7, Blogbinders will do it for you.
When you think of it, the consequences can be far-reaching for the whole value chain leading from the author to the reader. More authors will be able to reach more readers in a palatable format (and not only online!). The RSS/PDF alliance won't make you a good writer though. However, it is fair to say that publishers (and readers) often miss good writers, and good but unknown writers (the so-called Long Tail effect) find it difficult more often than not to interact with publishers. The RSS / PDF alliance will help them gain exposure to readers more easily. Question is how publishers are going to handle this squeeze of their value chain.
My guess is that this RSS/PDF alliance carries more opportunities than threats to them if they do not shy away from it. Indeed, did you know that more than half of the GDP of developed countries is made of transaction costs. There are good reasons for such a lion share (information inequally shared etc...). Publishers have a significant role to play in helping us screen good authors from poor authors. After all, an author published by MIT Press sends a strong signal about the quality of his work. Editors at publishing companies will see their job evolve as they'll have new ways locating unidentified authors as yet whose works they and the publishing companies employing them may decide to endorse or not.
Economics, as a matter of fact Eco"i"nomics (the science of the other side of the coin, others call it the dismal science) teaches you that there is what is seen and what is unseen. Business opportunities and future wealth lie precisely in what is unseen: It takes a bit of imagination, optimism and enthusiasm to get hold of them!