I have been following the trend toward free books for a while, and I have gotten used to seeing the regular suspects talking about the loss of book sales and the rise of new ways to earn a living on your words. Imagine my surprise when I saw Paul Krugman add his voice to the chorus:
According to a report in The Times, the buzz at this year’s BookExpo America was all about electronic books. ... we may finally have reached the point at which e-books are about to become a widely used alternative to paper and ink.
That’s certainly my impression after a couple of months’ experience with the device feeding the buzz, the Amazon Kindle. ...
It’s a good enough package that my guess is that digital readers will soon become common, perhaps even the usual way we read books (NYTimes)
Wow, that's going mainstream. Krugman points out that as content goes digital, the easier it is to pirate and the harder it is to monetize. Unfortunately, his op-ed ends with a bleak outlook for the future of the written word.
I don't think it has to be that way. If creative souls (like myself) are going to try to make a living with out art (literary, audio, visual, or video), we are going to have to find a way be proactive, reaching out to find new fans, and doing our best to retain the ones we already have.
While we may be on the cusp of the end of the publishing house, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. As the old industry dies, it is up to artist to create their own co-ops for sharing their wisdom with new artists, and helping their fans find those artists as well.
It is easy to get myopic and think only about our own careers, but we have to remember: A high tide raises all ships. Artists need to link to each other, and carry each others merchandise around with them on consignment. This will help each artist expose their works to more people, and help cultivate a vibrant community of fans that will support the artists.
This might be utopian of me, but if it is, that would be the first time I have ever been accused of that. So here's to a future where the artist controls their own fate!