New frontiers – where do they allow us to go – do we want to go there? Where will they allow us to go? Places we didn’t expect when we left.
When books went from hand-scribing to moveable type, the trauma to ownership and authorship was traumatic. We are once again, facing that same trauma. For any who think all works should be free to any who want them, I have one question: Will you go to work every day for nothing? Don’t tell me “it’s different.” It’s work. It should be compensated. “It’s different because I don’t have to (read/watch/buy).” Oh? Try living without TV shows, movies, books, magazines, games. Completely without. Don’t watch TV, don’t watch any movie, don’t read anything except instruction manuals that come with the products you buy, don’t play any games at all. The people who create these things need to pay rent, buy food, pay for utilities to keep warm in the winter.
We are in a time of transition, which is always traumatic. We will figure it out. We may have to go back to the patronage system, whereby the rich “keep” artists of various sorts, who create for the patron, as with Michelangelo and others.
I think what Google is doing is great. My local bookstores don’t stock much in the way of selection these days, just the absolute latest and/or most popular. I like to browse books new to me to see if the writing style is one that I can handle before I buy the whole book. And I still like to have books. You can’t take your laptop or tablet into the bathroom. You most certainly don’t want to use one while you soak in the tub.
In terms of having out-of-copyright books available online, the Gutenberg Project is already doing some of that. I’ve done some proofreading for them. Quite a lot of out-of-copyright books are also out of print, the only source being used book stores.
We live in times of change. I’m not saying we have to like it, or that the change will be easy. We can shape that change, or we can stand on a soapbox and scream that the tide stop.
I am personally bleeding from the changing times. I have either lost jobs or job opportunities as jobs in the computer field move out of the country, and what’s left go to younger, less expensive employees (or less experienced, so they don’t give the boss grief—but that’s for another post). So, unlike Steve Forbes who speaks of the trauma of change without ever having it damage his lifestyle, I speak from the emergency room of life.
And choose to enjoy the change.