The publishing world is going digital, and there's no turning back.

If you thought e-books were a big deal today, you ain't seen nothin' yet. (NASDAQ:AMZN) can hardly keep up with the demand for its Kindle e-reader, and Sony (NYSE:SNE) has a spiffy reader out on shelves, too. Then there's the good-looking Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) device. And thanks to book-scanning fools like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), there's no shortage of free and paid content available to consume.

But as impressive -- or intimidating, if you make a living from selling dead trees -- as that sounds, it's just the first few drops of a coming torrent. For example, chip designer Marvell (NASDAQ:MRVL) just announced a partnership with E Ink that has already borne a new processor. The system-on-a-chip, dubbed Armada 166E, can connect to an abundance of wireless communications channels like Wi-Fi short-range and 3G long-range signals, render detailed documents, and then display them on low-power E Ink screens used by many eReaders.

The first wave of Armada-powered readers will come from relatively unknown companies like Plastic Logic, Spring Design, and enTourage Systems. But down the line, this chip could become very important to Marvell's bottom line.

The Armada supports novel display sizes and could show content like "periodicals, larger-format books, and documents" the way they were meant to be seen. Marvell has designed Armada to run Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Mobile software, as well as various flavors of Linux and even the Google Android mobile operating system.

This software-agnostic approach gives Marvell's customers -- the gadget designers -- freedom to use the tools they know best, and that are best for the task at hand. It's a low-cost solution for highly portable devices -- a killer combo that puts high-quality technology in comfortable reach for a much larger customer base than today's classy but pricey readers do. And Marvell can't be the only chip designer aiming for this promising new market.

Market researcher iSuppli says that 1.1 million e-readers crossed retail counters last year, and expects the market to grow to 18 million units in 2012. And it looks like those near-ubiquitous e-readers will make today's first-generation beasts look quaintly outdated, too.

The ink-on-paper dinosaur will never die entirely -- but it's an obsolete technology that will soon be relegated to an increasingly lessened importance within the publishing industry. As a wannabe author, this sea change both scares and excites me. Now let's see how Barnes & Noble and Borders (NYSE:BGP) adapt to the new digital landscape. The time to act is now.