Scott Adams clearly articulates a long brewing concern I've had about remuneration for content creators in his post The Adams Theory of Content Value. He posits:
As our ability to search for media content improves, the economic value of that content will approach zero.
Now comes the iPad, which is destined to become primarily a criminal tool, and it will cause a change in society the same way that widespread illegal boozing caused a change in Prohibition laws. I'm not saying the changes will be bad, just inevitable.
The iPad has a browsing capability that allows you to see any content on the Internet, legal or not, and consume it from just about anywhere. Once you have an iPad, the only reasons to ever buy physical books, magazines, or newspapers will be:
- You might want to read outdoors, where the iPad isn't so good.
- You don't want to break the law.
- It's still a little bit hard to search for illegal content.
- Kindle is cheaper than an iPad.
My guess is that the iPad will someday be easy to read in bright light, perhaps working in concert with your sunglasses of the future. And when Kindle owners begin to factor in the unnecessary cost of books, they will start to see the iPad as a bargain.
I predict that the profession known as "author" will be retired to history in my lifetime, like blacksmith and cowboy. In the future, everyone will be a writer, and some will be better and more prolific than others. But no one will pay to read what anyone else creates. People might someday write entire books - and good ones - for the benefit of their own publicity, such as to promote themselves as consultants, lecturers, or the like. But no one born today is the next multi-best-selling author. That job won't exist.
Ester Dyson's seminal article Intellectual Value, 1995 and Kevin Kelly's pragmatic post Better Than Free, 2008 (among others) have predicted much earlier the fiscal devaluation of intellectual property and suggest how creators might still pay the mortgage when the Internet makes writing, music and other easily copied (and stolen) materials themselves of no monetary worth.
I've been thinking about Adams and this devaluation of the written word quite a lot lately since I have to admit that I've been in the writing doldrums. It happens.
While, like many people, I write for the simple pleasure of doing so and write "for the good of the profession," I ain't really all that pure. I like getting something back for my efforts.
The Blue Skunk offers enough feedback that my craving for attention that I've had since about kindergarten keeps me posting. The column and books generate some small beer money. I'd like to think that what I write and publish, either online or in print, generates speaking/consulting work, but who knows?
This year I am supposed to be revising one of my earlier books and I have an offer to write another book. So, my dilemma is: Should I write while there is still a market for print books or turn all my attention to online writing in hopes of generating income through alternate venues? I can afford to be some what risky since I still have the day job that pays the grocery bills.
Or should I just say "to hell with it," go biking, read trashy fiction, play Monkey Ball and enjoy the doldrums without guilt?
And just so I can find this again..
And if you want to write, you just write and publish yourself. No need to ask permission, just open a website. And if you want to write a book, you just write it, send it to Lulu.com or BookSurge at Amazon or PubIt or ExLibris and you've got yourself an e-book. No problem. And that is the future of publishing: 18 million authors in America, each with an average of 14 readers, eight of whom are blood relatives. Average annual earnings: $1.75. Garrison Keillor, The End of an Era in Publishing