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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

E-Bubbles

On the heels of DBW12, several articles and op-eds have bemoaned the state of the publishing industry.

Before continuing, let me state my own biases:

1) There really hasn't been a better time to be a writer in human history than now.

2) Publishing books (I don't care if the format is clay tablets, sheepskin or electrons) is a business; treat it like one.

I saw the link about Ewan Morrison's e-book bubble on Jay Lake's blog. (Jay admits he "snurched" it from Lilith Saintcrow.) Go read it. I'll be here when you get back.

Ewan is looking at this as a investment change instead of a technological change. Frankly, that's a little backward to me. He made some good points, but not necessarily the ones I think he meant to make. Yes, Ewan, there is a disturbance in the Force, but is it really any different than any other technological change in entertainment over the last century? Take a hard look at records, motion pictures, TV, etc. Contrary to the naysayers of each development, civilization did not collapse.

Stage 1

Development begins on some cool new idea. Established businesses look at new device, scratch their heads, and wonder whatever it could possibly be used for. As Spongebob Squarepants would say, developers use their "EE-MAAG-IN-AAA-TIONS"

Stage 2

Early adopters see the possibilities of cool new device. They create content for that new technology. Some is really great; some not so great. Find someone under fifty who can name TV show from the '50's besides The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy.

Stage 3

Most new technology starts at a high price where only the elite can afford the product. Gradually, cheaper versions come out and the masses latch onto them. Watch the scene in The Wedding Singer where Julia's junk-bond-dealing fiance brings home a CD player. Most people my age and older get the jokes. Or in case, the not-a-joke price he paid for the player.

P.S. Change is a constant in the universe. The last time we watched the movie, GK turned to me and asked, "What's a CD player?"

Stage 4

The technology becomes widely accepted, which in turn drives the controllers of the previous technology insane. The movie studio execs were sure that first TV, and then VCRs, would totally destroy their industry. Some content developers step up production to meet demand. Others drag their heels and collapse in the dust.

Stage 5

The establishment finally realizes they too can make money off of cool new device. In the '80's, movie studios resisted videocassettes, and if they did release a movie on tape, they slapped an astronomical price on it to deter people from buying, copying and passing out the movie for free to their friends. (Does this sound familiar at all, folks?) Eventually, established party realizes they can make more money by embracing new device. In the meantime, development begins on some cool new idea...

The two things Ewan mentioned that concern me as well are:

1) The gold rush mentality exhibited by some people. Seriously, you need to know your craft before you publish. (Otherwise, I'd be a recording star right now.)

2) Folks taking advantage of the naive and the gullible. As I've said a zillion times, this is a business; there are no shortcuts. Anyone offering a service or a product to help you dig for gold wants one thing--your money.

Now, go write your asses off, people!

2 comments:

  1. I'd seen that article this week...I'm still not sure how I feel about it...you make some great points though!

    And I can remember, when dh and I were dating, I bought him a cd player...it was close to $600...crazy to pay that, but it was the newest thing out and he loved (still does) his music.

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  2. LOL I know. I remember when DH wanted our first DVD player-$300. Now they're $30 bucks at Target.

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