As someone who maintains a fair amount of Emacs libraries, I've long been in search of improvements to the release process. I've lobbied for including package.el in Emacs itself, which finally happened over the summer. But political concerns interfered a bit, and it is only configured to point to the FSF package repository out of the box. This repository only accepts code for which copyright has been granted to the Free Software Foundation. At the time of this writing it has only six packages in it compared to ELPA's 130, making it somewhat less useful than it could be. For a number of reasons the copyright assignment policy doesn't work for the packages I maintain, so this was a bit disappointing to me.
On the other hand, I was able to add support for multiple package sources to package.el before it was included in Emacs. This allows users to add alternate third-party sources like the original ELPA repository. I should note here that there's been some confusion regarding the difference between package.el and ELPA which I must admit to having helped spread at one point. To be precise, package.el is the package manager, while ELPA is the original package source from which most packages so far have been hosted. The term "ELPA" is often mistakenly used to refer to package.el because for a long time package.el was hard-coded to only download from ELPA, but now that it supports multiple sources it's important to make a distinction between them.
Unfortunately ELPA is still manually curated with package submission over email, so it can take weeks or even months for new versions of my libraries to become available. I've started my own package source at http://repo.technomancy.us/emacs, but it turns out maintaining a package source consisting of a bunch of static files is not a lot of fun and can be error prone. Luckily Nathan Wizenbaum has cooked up Marmalade, a community package source that allows users to upload their own packages much like Clojars or Rubygems.org. While it hasn't seen much use yet, it's quite promising as a way for elisp authors to get their code out to users. The following snippet will add Marmalade as a repository:
(require 'package) (add-to-list 'package-archives '("marmalade" . "http://marmalade-repo.org/packages/") t) (package-initialize)
You'll need to run M-x package-refresh-contents manually to download the latest package list. If you are using Emacs 23 you can download a compatible package.el. The version from tromey.com doesn't support multiple archive sources.
Moving forward I'm planning on uploading the packages I maintain over to Marmalade. It offers a much faster turnaround time for updates than the old system of submitting by email to ELPA. I've already uploaded my Clojure libraries and am working on a version of the Emacs Starter Kit that is structured as a set of packages in order to be more modular. (The new Starter Kit only targets Emacs 24 and up, so at this point it's intended for the adventurous.) Happy hacking!
Update: I can no longer in good conscience recommend the use of package.el since at the time of this writing there are no community repositories which offer installation over SSL or signed packages. I have switched over to using el-get with (setq el-get-allow-insecure nil). This will blacklist all recipes that attempt to install over a non-encrypted connection.