Wal-Mart = $8.99 (on books that cost $30 from the publishers)
Amazon = $9.00
Target = $8.98
Sears = If you show them your receipt for any of these books, they will give you nine bucks in store credit...
...Google and the Internet Archive have each announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair that they will begin selling new, for-profit ebooks "in the cloud," quietly competing for the future while the grey-haired, goggle-eyed American shopkeeps frantically sell-out publishing for Christmas in order to "win the game."
"WE ARE NOT PUBLISHERS," Google keeps saying. "WE ARE NOT PUBLISHERS. We are just allowing books to be "published." We are not airplanes. We are the sky!"
Apple's Jesus Tablet is coming! Barnes and Noble is releasing a new ereader called the Nook! Unemployment hangs at 20%; a pretty good sitting around and reading number!
While everyone else kills themselves to wring the last gasping profits from paper, Google and the Internet Archive are giving away millions of old books for free online, and have announced that they will charge nominal rates for new ones, unless publishers want to gouge customers and have no business.
Normal people are going to read Google's free books and they are going to reward Google for their generosity by buying Google's books that are "for sale." If you want paper books instead of electronic ones, you can print up books at Espresso Book Machines, coming to a brick-and-mortar retailer near you.
You can't compete against free. Free ruins everything.
So that's it, folks. That's publishing now. Choose between Google or the Internet Archive. At least Google will not suddenly outright own all of out-of-print literature with one grand, multinational "yoink." They are going to have to work for it. Compete. Maybe Scribd will be able to outmaneuver Google for awhile. Maybe Barnes and Noble will outfox Amazon on the proprietary market and gain a substantial share, although -- for how long and to what end -- who knows?
So. My fellow fiction writers. Look haaaard into the future. Ya'll are the ones with the imaginations. Do you think you are going to get those big advances anymore from Google or some other massive online book publisher? Do you think Google is going to help you edit your new novel or get behind you as an artist, taking risks to publicize and advertise your hot new piece of work?
You are on your own.
And looky here: if your work gets TOO hot, it becomes free on account of rampant and unfightable information piracy. If your work is only fair-to-middling-lukewarm, it will quickly become lost in the noise, killed by the glut of information and the shrill hell of bad internet porn.
Google is the "commercial" angle. The Internet Archive is "the public library." Random House and the other Huns will keep churning out steady work that can be cloned, copied, and clouded.
So what are we going to do, fiction? How are we gonna make sure our art lasts in a world that wants to destroy everything and start over every thirty seconds with a new format and a new design with new extras and new mods and attachments?
How do you package the power of the internet in order to put it in the hands of your ideal reader? How do you make mutable information SOLID?
I've got some ideas, but they are just ideas.
The real question is: are ya'll still gonna write if if there is no hope left? Broke and goddamned doomed? Are ya'll still gonna tell the stories that need telling?
Which of you can't sleep at night for the buzz of voices in your goddamned ears?
James Ellroy will keep writing no matter what. Will you?
You will have to pry the pen from Joyce Carol Oates hard fucking fist as the last breath expires from the fire of her raging heart. How hard will it be to get your pen?
Which of you would rather be writing screenplays or comic books?
This is it, fiction. Moment of truth. We had a hundred years where fiction was a job. Maybe now it is something else. A calling. Who is here for fiction and who is here for pride, fortune, and glory?
I'm gonna just go ahead and draw a line right here...
It's not too late to go to law school.
Posted by miracle on Tue, 20 Oct 2009 15:17:58 -0400 -- permanent link