Let me clarify that when I said "outdated dead tree publishers" (admittedly with the charged "dead tree" term), I was not so much saying that physical, printed material should or will die, rather than the monolithic industries built around traditional print publishing systems should. On-demand printing is but one example of a potentially good way forward for independent authors. Or simple printing houses, which aren't going away. An author buys, say, 500 copies of their book and hires a local sales rep to hawk them to local book stores, or sells them easily through an online portal. They can choose to deal with shipping themselves or pay a service to deal with it for them. Dismantling the mainstream publishing empires into component pieces that people can deal with as they need (and as they please) makes the industry more flexible, more diverse, potentially more capable, certainly leaner and meaner, lower costs, less overhead.
In short, I am not dreaming of an exclusively digital future. Just one without huge companies having their way with every bit of media and art I want to enjoy.
As someone who has actually helped publish a book through on-demand publishers as well as Amazon, I can tell you it's actually quite easy to straddle the digital/real-world divide and utilize Amazon for what it's good for and book stores for what they're good for. Amazon may not want to deal with book stores, but I believe they do offer (and certainly other on-demand book publishers do) a service that can put your book into the main catalogs that book stores reference and buy from. Actually getting a store to buy it is another matter, that's where a sales agent and/or PR come in. I'm certainly not saying that doing things yourself should be the only way or that it will be easier or more successful than traditional methods. However the average author stands to benefit more from self-publishing *provided they take advantage of additional services like editing and sales agents* than they do in a traditional publishing model. This is because they know the actual cost of materials and services and can price their product however they want and, critically, they reap all profits. It's potentially riskier, but more rewarding (percentage-wise at least) as well if they succeed. The chances of success are also higher, though again "success" generally doesn't mean "millionaire author" (it very seldom does in the current publishing world either, but the chance is there, just like in music, which puts stars in the eyes of some writers).
I also take issue with the idea that digital-only/self-published music is unnoticed and consists mostly of crap. There's tons of crap, of course, just as there is in any artistic/expressive medium. But to say that only record execs or publishing houses or whatever can properly decide what should actually get attention is silly. It's easy to create systems that fairly rank and reward quality, or at least popularity. There are many modern examples of quality winning popularity contests and I would in fact argue that much of the trashy pulp, both in print and in music (and elsewhere) is actually promoted and made successful by the industries I'm pointing the finger at here, by the A&R people, the publishing reps, etc. "Ooo, sparkly teenage vampires? We'll sell millions!". Going independent isn't going to ruin our chances of finding good material and more than it already is, and it stands a good chance of improving it. It's democratization of publishing and promotion, essentially.