The paperless everything • 7 January 2008 • The SnowBlog
The paperless everything
Just to pick up on Em's recommendation, and follow up on of the big points Seth G makes (and has made in the past - and which I make too) consider this riddle: Music is to books as concert tickets are to...? If policing who listens to what gets too difficult, and record companies are forced to sponsor fascist governments in an attempt to carry on charging every time a tune is played, then many people think the model that eventually takes over is this: bands give away music, but charge for merchandise and concert tickets.
Otherwise it's just getting too damn difficult to control the spread of music in a world filled with interconnected computers. Patrolling the internet, locking down people's PCs, copy-protecting their MP3 libraries: it's difficult, annoying and doesn't work very well. So many smart people think it would be better to give up. Let musicians and music lovers be happy together. Accept that in the future there are no giant, money-making middle-man corporations pulling the strings and deciding who becomes a star. Let people listen to whatever they want. As Seth says, record companies had a great run of it, but now they're screwed. And they're not going to win anything by spending all their time threatening, suing and locking up their customers.
But what happens if you apply that succession model to books? What is the book equivalent of merchandise and concert tickets? I really can't believe author readings are going to be something we all attend regularly. So what else is there? If you don't try to police the spread of ebooks (which, if you think about it, would be rather a noble idea) then how does anyone make money from writing books? Even if we accept that publishers can't cash in; how do authors afford their bread and jam? Rich sponsors? Writing to order/by commission? By having a day job (shudder)? Any thoughts, you visionary lot, you?