where the writers are
Questioning Format

26th Story asks why readers should have to chose between print and digital formats of an author's work:

If I want to read White Tiger on "durable paper," fine. But if I want both the paper and the electronic versions, I should be able to pay almost nothing extra for the second version. That's what readers will want--and if we divide the publishing world into paper versus bytes, we'll set up a dangerous competition in which paper will lose, and the result will be that publishers and authors--and ultimately, therefore, readers--will lose as well.

I happen to agree. There is no reason why readers should have to chose between the formats or, if unable to make the choice as this blogger is, to purchase the book twice. Of course, this leads to enforcement issues (how to you make sure the reader has paid at least once?) and dreaded DRM policies as well.

I find myself increasingly believing (and yes I understand how ridiculous this sounds) that we need some sort of socialist system for art in this country.

We're currently trying to mesh two systems that are inherently opposed to each other. On the one hand, there's the capitalist economy of the publishers and book sellers and (though to a much smaller degree) the author him/herself. On the other hand, you have the free economy of the internet that has always been about the uninhibited transfer of information. These two systems are not going to find a happy medium.

With the possible exception of web designers, no one actually sells the internet. Amazon sells books and other products on the internet, advertisers seek market attention through the internet, but all of these examples reference something that actually exists somewhere other than in cyberspace. The internet is (thankfully) a free source of information. Trying to create a system that economizes that is wrong. What would be better, though probably just as impossible to get off the ground, would be to federalize the publishing industry.

Of course, there's a slight risk of 1984 here, but there needn't necessarily be. We could keep the same architectural structure that exists now in publishing (though possibly trimmed a little), and books would be accepted or rejected in much the same way. The only major differences would be the end of outrageous advances and the payment of all royalties to come from the federal government. It might make book publishing less attractive to some people, but those people are bound to be disappointed in this current climate anyway. Or, if the feds paying for publication hits you the wrong way, how about increasing the number of grants available from the NEA?

With so little money left in publishing, it is beginning to make more and more sense to remove money from the equation altogether. Writers, editors, printers, etc. should be subsidized with a living wage and then told to offer their wares for free to the public. This is the sort of open communication the internet was built for, and as long as we are fighting it, there is going to be a bitter struggle that creates many more losers than winners.

Comments
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Never let 'em negotiate our freedoms

Jonathan, your proposals scare the hell out of me. Sorry.

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O.o

Who decides who gets to be subsidized with a living wage?  Just curious. And then who decides who gets to decide who gets to decide?

Capitalism - I've heard will eat itself... -cough- dialectically?

But yeah. Maybe in a weird way... we are socializing. Government has a say in which companies survive, which get money etc. The smaller ones are almost SOL. And then, capitalism is meshed competition in a way - so the "people" get to decide what to buy and when. A government hand, hell it's everywhere, we just don't always like to see it.

The internet is cool though. Writing- Art can pass straight from artist to consumer. But there are problems with this as well. Which artists can and which consumers can. Not without some kinda backin'! Even education counts as currency.

I'm rambling some. Educate. Arts have long been for those socialized to appreciate them. Socialization in that respect isn't as scary? Socialize our children to have an open mind, to decide what is their version of art and what is commercialized crap. You wanna slim down? Me too. Supply and demand...eh it's a start. Who'd buy a book for its cover and marketing? WE the people of the world. I was brought up to love the art on paper in tangible form. Computers are fun, too. Information age... new currency. Nothing to do with art. Well, unless making money is an art form (there are surely those that would testify to this). Art has a bunch to do with expression. Yes, groceries are goooood... but even the unpublished, self-published, non-aspiring, aged 1 to 99 will still make mud pies or attempt to connect with the world, to express in whatever format possible. How many prints are sold, and yet people pilgrimage to museums to witness a different format.

Maybe more artists would get wider audiences, maybe not. I just think that a better solution is to socialize people to express, to create, to wonder and appreciate rather than buy the most expensive item or make the most money. Art has purposes for the artist, but it all enriches the world.

Sorry for blogging all over your blog. I'm not exactly sure if I stayed on topic. Socialization... what I would really like to see is the internet become a public sphere to influence the hand that feeds us. Even if it is feeding us our art as well.

-Miko is Michelle

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Honestly, I believe Internet

Honestly, I believe Internet can be "federalized" much less than it can be commercialized.

Besides, the people who are buying physical books instead of borrowing them in libraries, do this for a reason. Libraries (free books by definition) have existed longer than selling the books as we know it - or even printing the book. I don't think they're crippling the publishing business. 

If a reader gets his/her hands on online copy of a book and really, really loves it, he/she will buy a physical copy or click on a thank-the-author-with-a-cheque button. I do.