The self-published authors of today are the future of publishing. They'll also be better writers.
That may sound like an overly ambitious thing to say, but a careful examination of the facts leads me to this conclusion.
Think about it for a moment. The self-published author, if they take it seriously, does the writing, the editing, the promotion and marketing as well as getting involved in the ebook conversion and the printing process. How many of today's traditionally published authors can say that?
They will also have built up numerous contacts via social media, will have found out what works for them and be able to pursue it. It's the kind of publishing education that most modern authors don't have.
For anyone who goes the traditional route, the editing is done for them (they see it when the galleys come through), as is the cover design and a lot of the marketing (the exception being those who go through small publishers).
The self-published author has to design their own cover, or find someone to do it for them, and even then, they have a lot of input into the design. They do their own marketing and design their own promotion schedule. The editing is a very hands-on experience, and usually involves other writers who also learn from the process.
In short, the self-published author is their own agent and publishing house, and most manage it very successfully.
What is also becoming clear is that the gateway to traditional publishing has moved. In eons gone by, authors submitted typewritten stories to publishers and, if accepted, looked for an agent. (Yes, I know there were exceptions, but it was the usual way for someone to get published) Then, it shifted to agents doing the sifting before publishers got to see the books. Now, the gateway has shifted to self-publishing, be it electronic or otherwise.
Self-publication is today's route to publishing success. It's not the future, it's the present.