Macropayments: Why I don't take tips for my books

My latest Locus Magazine column is live: "Macropayments" explains why I don't have a tipjar:
Two columns back, in "Think Like a Dandelion," I talked about the reproductive strategies employed in species where reproduction is cheap, like dandelions. Unlike humans, dandelions don’t worry about the disposition of each of their children – they only want to be sure that every opportunity for success is fulfilled, that every crack in every sidewalk has a dandelion growing out of it. It’s a damned successful strategy, for dandelions at least. You’d be hard pressed to find a lawn, no matter how carefully tended and how thoroughly poisoned, that doesn’t have a dandelion or two sprouting on it.

To concretize the metaphor: I don’t care about making sure that everyone who gets a copy of my books pays me for them – what I care about is ensuring that the everyone who would pay me decent money for a book has the opportunity to do so. I don’t want to hold 13-year-olds by the ankles and shake them until their allowance falls out of their pockets, but I do want to be sure that when their parents are thinking about a gift for them, the first thing that springs to mind is my latest $20-$25 hardcover.

Macropayments

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  1. Cry, d y hv ny frnds n th Cmbrdg r xfrd dbtng scts? Cld y pls sk thm bt th prprty f, “Hv y tlkd t yr prgnnt tngr bt gttng ff th bz?” s Pnt f rdr? mgn J Bdn s strgglng wth ths n, nd wndr hw th trdtnl .K. frnscs stblshmnt dls wth t whn t cms p.

  2. Nice. I’m proud to have bought your book and I am also proud at how you treat your art form. Creativity should be shared not sold. Biggups Doctorow.

  3. I have one nit to pick – concretize? Where does that come from? What’s wrong with using a normal verb, like ‘make’? Or to explain that it’s a direct application? There have to be at least five better ways of expressing that point without making up a new word.

  4. Hmm. Of course, I notice the article doesn’t actually mention why you don’t have a tipjar… That wouldn’t be either micro or macro payments. It also wouldn’t make the people tipping your customers any more than the people who throw money into the hat of a busker are his or her customers. It’s a monetary display of appreciation.

    That said, keep up the good work.

  5. Personally, I’m done with regular books. I use a kindle or my laptop to read long style novels. You can resize text, search easy(like you said), and in the case of my laptop, I find it easier to read for a longer period of time with my eyes at the same level at what I’m viewing.

    It’s your prerogative to manage how you want to interact with your fans and (publishers!). But usable ebook readers are now just coming onto the scene. They will have an effect on the book market. As with all things media it is just easier to access and store in a digital form.

    I know from reading Charles Stross’s “diary” that he hates how the ebook market is setup now. In some cases charging more for his ebooks than the hardcover editions. If that is some of the justification for eschewing to charge for all your ebooks; couldn’t you release a free version and offer a paid version value plus?

    I have read most of your books. I find them thought provoking and enjoyable. And I like the fact you release them online for free. That’s how I first discovered your books. Keep up the good work.

  6. I am disagreeing with you on this matter. Just because there is no working system of micropayments it does not mean that they do not work. I have it multiple times that I would have spend 50p here and there for a comic that I quickly read and liked or a very investigative news story that I would have supported – of course I am not talking about mandatory “you need to pay to read” micropayments but more voluntary ones. Heck I would even buy vouchers for a micropayment system – say one for 10 bucks – that can then be easely distributed in small amounts among projects I like.
    On the other hand I have to admit that really really rarely buy a book or other “free” media at all – I feel bad about it but I consume it in such quantities that I could not sustain to buy them (don´t blast me please its an honest self observation) – so if I could just give it SOMETHING would relieve me from feeling bad and give the maker another income. As said the hurdle to click your way through paypal etc. and the associated cost that can be higher then the micropayment itself has been stopping any micropayment system from being viable.
    I recently have stumbled over spot.us – a website planning community payed journalism and I really like the idea but they ultimately will have the same micropayment problem – even worse for them they might have “the rich” pay for articles that concerns them – while the articles that concerns ordinary citizens will not rise to the top because noone is shelling out $50 just to see a newspaper article. The same goes for other media and I would even say making fiction because at one point people will cater – again – to the market with the highest return on investment – which is called sellout over here (no accusation to anyone yet). I really do not like “big” money rule what is produced. I wished a micropayment system would have emerged somewhere by now.

  7. WACKYVORLON – If the neologism doesn’t need to be explained but can be inferred from the context, why not?

    FALK – I thought it was macropayments being discussed here, not micro

  8. I guess the reason that there’s no working and fair micropayment system (Microsoft points and Wii points are clearly working micropayment systems, but they’re hardly fair to consumers) is that someone wants to make money.

    What I mean here is that the individual sellers/producers of content don’t have the capability to manage the micropayments alone (at the very least, they need to go through a credit card provider, bank, or Paypal and similar services) so they have to deal with a middleman. That middleman needs to make money off of this, and that’s the main problem: micropayments quickly become macropayments, or the middleman loses his shirt.

    Take the case of the Microsoft Points system: you can’t just buy the exact amount of points you need for any particular item, and as a matter of fact, the amounts of points you can buy are designed to prevent you from getting the exact amount you need, so you’ll eventually buy something else, or have to buy more points just to get enough for another purchase.

    Plus, I still think they charge way too much for interface skins and especially gamer pictures.

    And that’s one of the most successful micropayment systems out there, at this point.

    The only system I can think of that’s fair, and similar in concept to a micropayment system is the Microcredit system. Although this is almost the reverse of a micropayment system, perhaps microloans could work well for lesser-known writers, musicians, filmmakers, etc. As a matter of fact, this could become the best way for established creators to help the struggling newcomers.

  9. The point about micros isn’t the transaction cost, it’s the relationship it establishes with the writer. If you give me $5 and thereafter expect to have a say in what I write forever, it’s not worth it to me. When you buy stuff from my publisher, if you don’t like it, your beef is with them (for not accurately conveying what you’re buying), not with me. I wrote the right book — you bought the wrong book.

    When MeFi introduced a $5 signup fee, Matt was bombarded with jackasses who demanded that he settle flamewars, censor stories, etc, on the basis that “I didn’t pay $5 to read this crap!”

    Here on Boing Boing, there’s a bottomless pool of people who think that reading the site for free gives them the right to tell me which subjects I should cover (“Why don’t you write more about the RNC?”) and which ones I shouldn’t (“Enough with the steampunk!”). I can only imagine the sense of totally buzz-killing, life-ruining entitlement that would arrogate to these people if they’d actually spent a dollar or two in addition to clicking on a link to load the page.

    The money in creative endeavor stinks. The only reason to do it is because you love it. I’m convinced that taking small sums of money directly from millions of people would establish a miserable, awful career-path.

  10. I’m convinced that taking small sums of money directly from millions of people would establish a miserable, awful career-path

    I know quite a few musicians who follow this career path (apart from the ‘millions of people’ bit) and are reasonably happy with it. The people who buy their CDs don’t seem to have an excessive sense of entitlement.

    Are book publishers less evil than record labels? The gist of the article seems to be that publishers are a good way of keeping your fans at arm’s length.

  11. But, then, don’t publishers tell writers what to write, at least part of the time? Doesn’t that make them your customers?

    Would you be any less annoyed if your publisher asked you for “more YA novels just like Little Brother”? (By the way, did that happen?)

    I can understand the difference in scale (thousands of entitled, paying readers vs one or a few publishers or editors) but there’s still a customer in the equation, even if it’s not a “consumer”.

  12. >but the real action in AdWords is in the popular terms (“asbestos,” or “travel” or even “sex”)

    I get lots of results for asbestos and travel but none for sex.

  13. Er…’concretize’ isn’t really a neologism. Certainly Cory didn’t just invent it.

    Just because a word is outside the city-limits of your current vocabulary doesn’t mean that it’s just been made up.

    It’s a big old language, y’know. Lots of words in there. Get a dictionary.

  14. I’m convinced that taking small sums of money directly from millions of people would establish a miserable, awful career-path.

    Regularly taking a big sum of money from a huge corporation isn’t always that great either. Maybe we need to encourage more bartering.

  15. Taking money from someone doesn’t necessarily require listening to their concerns or comments, but I understand the rest.

    It is all about setting expectations upfront. My company allows for donations to keep my site alive, and it works out pretty well…people ask what they get for the money, and I tell them it keeps the site running for just a little longer, and that it allows me to run it without having to compromise my vision or listen to anyone else…including the person giving the money. *MOST* understand this. Some think it is an instant way to get access to picking my brain and I have to remind them my private consulting fees are much more expensive than what they ponied up.

    I’ve only ever returned money to one individual and I did so willingly. It is all about expectations…working in behavioral science, it is one of the things beaten into us (i.e., having clients sign ‘contracts’ at the beginning of their treatment and otherwise…it lets them know what they are getting out of this, and what we expect in return).

    In my other field, I 100% agree…in publishing, I do NOTHING in the way of being involved with advertising a work. (Hell, I don’t want my ‘real’ name associated with it at all mostly…but because it would interfere with my day job). The work belongs to the publisher…my rights and responsibilities end the minute it is turned in (errr..so long as they pay me for it). For me, this is one of the reasons I’d never consider giving away ‘my’ works…they aren’t mine to give away. I’d love to work with an organization that was willing to see the light…but since they don’t, they don’t and I don’t have to worry about it.

    Personally, I would feel like I was stealing from them if I gave this to them in exchange for cash and THEN put it on my website for the taking (with a tiny sign that says Please Tip The Server). There isn’t a gray area here…it is taking money from someone for something that isn’t theirs…its like that old Russian MP3 site a few years ago…they claimed they had the right to distribute the works (I *KNOW* a few works I was associated with did not include international rights to that part of the world)…if it were just an FTP site, I might not have cared…but since they were taking money in exchange, I had no compunction about alerting them to this service (before it was on everyone’s radar).

    Anyhoo….

  16. >> “I’m convinced that taking small sums of money directly from millions of people would establish a miserable, awful career-path.”

    I am not that convinced especially if the people paying are not forced to pay. I always saw micropayments as a donation system not a mandatory payment system. Like a small reward from a lot of people for the work you do – not a hindering level of access to your content. As a donation system I think it would work great and nobody would have a say in your work that way. They like it they pay you.
    As said I would really really give a lot of small projects some small amount of money often and regularly if that means a) they can continue doing their thing b) they won´t add ads that sooner or later are going to control their content.
    Its just that going through paypal everytime I just happened to like something is not working – it takes the impulse force away.

    But maybe I am too idealistic….

    and to the poster who said the article is about macropayment. If you talk about macropayment then micropayment is not that off topic. Its the tick to the tock and it sprung to my mind when I read the article. If it caused any inconvenience I apologize.

  17. Again, some of this boils down to the standard of living that you want to create for yourself and your family. When I was 19 and quitting college I realized from looking at my friends that while I loved music and bands dearly that I could not actually live on the money that came out of pressing ones own records and selling them mail order or out of a van. I had to get a day job and I had to give up working in music and just worked with people in music, writing for newspapers and the like.

    At this time the web did not exist, so incomes for musicians were at their highest that they’ve been in the last 20 years. Since the advent of the web and filesharing the money has drained out of bands’ hands much further and exponentially faster than book publishing- EXCEPT newspaper publishing- that entire industry is going bankrupt. I think it’s safe to say that being in a band is like being a newspaper writer. When people paid for music and advertisers paid for papers then you got money, add in napster and craigslist and suddenly it’s not commerce anymore and people are suggesting you live on some primitive barter system.

    Given the obvious standard of living problem, I got a series of tech jobs, completed my undergrad degree, took graduate-level classes, got multiple certifications. I talked to a friend of mine who was in a successful early 1990s band and released his own records. He lives in a rented apartment with his two kids and owns one 10 year old car. He has virtually no 401k because tops he made $80k one year when his band was hottest, but the next year he barely cracked $40k and all this in a creative city with $1500 rents. He’s a great guy and probably a few dozen people reading this knew is band 15 years ago, but he only sold 800 cds last year and 2000 mp3s on iTunes- no one is paying for music now and he can’t play more than about 20 gigs because of his kids and driving to those gigs is twice as expensive as last year.

    I also think about two kinds of books that I bought dozens of just 5 years ago: cookbooks and computer books. I spent so much money on Amazon buying both. Last year I gave away all my computer books because everything I need is online. My wife and I boxed up about half our cookbooks because we can find every recipe we need online. In 2007 and 2008 I spent $0 on either genre of book.

    So, to “concretize” my post concretely, very few writers want to have the career arc that Cory has. He is a niche writer in a niche industry where this benefits him, but in other genres, such as reference books, there is nothing but FAIL. In music this is total FAIL and most of my friends who spent their 20s in bands have suffered serious and irreversible financial hardship for doing so. Irreversible because the $50k city condo I bought in 1995 is completely impossible to find for $200k today and condos in our neighborhood are selling for as much as $500k. Houses on my block where I bought for around $200k are selling, after the downturn, for $900k. If you didn’t solidify your position in the 1990s then you will be a slave to the landlord for years UNLESS you move to someplace outside the creative hubs and while I’m sick of the city, I’ve been in these rural areas too and they’re far too backward for my tastes.

    So right now, I’m not a musician nor am I a writer. Neither business has revenue streams that would keep me up to where I am now, allow me to pay for daycare and mortgage.

    It comes down to financials and Cory is not telling the real truth about them. Is he surfing Canada’s exchange rate bubble right now? Because if so then that’s the source of his well-being, the ability to get paid in one currency and buy a lot of things sold in another currency.

  18. Cory Doctorow, you seem to be such an idealist at times. I guess that’s why you have a following, including myself. But do you really think that there will be a consistent population of people that will pay you (or anyone else) for a product that can be had for free. And I’m not disagreeing with you. I hope it’s true that there will always be people that will pay writers to write. But, there are many examples to be found in the market place where the availability of Free wins out over that which has to be paid for. It does seem to be human nature to expedite the gathering and ownership process (validation by virtue of possession) . At the current rate of online free download availability, how long will it take for the digital culture to expect that everyone’s book will be free online and that paying for it will be a matter of choice? I think lots of people count on paper books being there to buy in the future, but I’m thinking that this young culture may abandon paper as easily as we abandoned vinyl and then plastic (music). At that point a tip jar might be a good idea.

    I don’t want paper books to go away, really I don’t. But I try to be a good little SF writer/reader, and the future looks bleak for paper. Let’s hope not.

  19. #17 said, “…but in other genres, such as reference books, there is nothing but FAIL. In music this is total FAIL and most of my friends who spent their 20s in bands have suffered serious and irreversible financial hardship for doing so…”

    I was talking to a pal of mine who plays for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. I asked him if he bought his music or if the internet had changed things. He told me that he hadn’t bought a piece of music in years because he either copies stuff that he gets from music libraries, or the web. Now, this guy makes a nice living, but it’s playing music, not writing it and then trying to sell it. As for cookbooks: I have my few bibles on the shelf, but I’ve pretty much moved to online recipes. I’ve gave away over 100 cook books last year.

  20. Now, this guy makes a nice living, but it’s playing music, not writing it and then trying to sell it
    ——

    Yes, I have a friend who is a professional violinist and she does the same thing. She is away from her small children at least one week out of the month. The standard of living she hoped for isn’t there. Can she survive playing at a music festival in Telluride or teaching at violin camp? Sure! But those are financed through local tax dollars or corporate sponsorship. Even ticket sales are too small for symphonies to pay to keep them going without deep pocket benefactors.

    But is this constant travel the quality of life she hoped for when she decided on this path 20 years ago? I know she misses her kids and her kids miss her even if at age 21 she was excited to travel the world.

  21. I don’t really understand how your position on micropayments vs. macropayments relates to the dandelion metaphor… are you saying you are like a dandelion or not like a dandelion? If the dandelion was like you, then it would ignore the cracks in the sidewalk and put its energy into finding a nice open meadow of fertile soil…

  22. How much of the sale of an actual, physical paper book does the author see anyway?

    In general I think Cory is quite right in that the tip jar philosophy of remuneration isn’t a great way to make a living. Yes, you might get the odd person who can afford to make large generous payments; but the model is inconsistent as well as the afore-mentioned issues with high maintainence customers.

    I think the best business model – for anyone making a living from creativity – is to offer your work for free for a while, build up a large following and then a) advertise b) sell ‘premium’ content alongside the free and/or c) sell or license to a large corporation (and optionally remain on a salaried basis).

  23. @17:

    I don’t think filesharing actually has that much with it. Your biggest problem is that music is the most disposable artistic product, and the most non-physical at the same time.

    For millions of people, music is more or less a pleasant background noise that they use to silence the world around them, while they drive to work, or sit in the underground. Lots and lots of music gets listened to because it sounds vaguely pleasant but without paying enough attention to actually understand the lyrics.

    And, old music doesn’t vanish. And unlike with books, where nothing will replace an actual Harry Potter book, there are thousands of songs in each style, and except to the very dedicated there’s often little need to own a work by a specific artist.

    An additional thing is that there’s plenty good old work. I still listen to ABBA and Boney M. There are huge volumes of old music that can be obtained cheaply, which have been conveniently filtered by time, so that the junk of those times has been long forgotten. It’s easier to find good music among collections of stuff from the 60s than among new releases.

    If somebody is selling 800 CDs a year, it’s not because there are 100K, 10K or even 1000 people pirating it. It’s because honestly, nobody really gives a damn. That kind of work is waaay down on the list of popular artists, below thousands of others that aren’t recognized by most people.

    I’d be willing to bet that 99% of an average pirate’s collection is work by extremely well known artists, who aren’t in much trouble anyway.

    This problem won’t disappear even if piracy vanishes tomorrow. The more music there is overall, the less is the relative value of your own work. There’s only so much time people can dedicate to music in their lives, and when the aggregate amount of content multiplies by 10, you’re 10 times less likely to be heard.

  24. #23:

    filesharing devalued music.

    My friend has sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 500k copies of three big alternative cds. last year he said he sold 800 cds. What happened to those fans? 1000 people pirating it? Heck, during the napster years we’d see hundreds of different results every single day, try 50,000 people pirating it.

    It’s gotten so bad that really creative people I know refuse to put out new records and work in film soundtracks and the like. Know why you still listen to Boney M? Because out there is some 22 year old who could be making amazing music but went into t-shirt design or programming instead due to there not being money in music at all. It’s literally as simple as that and I know two people who quit their bands to do film soundtracks because that’s at least more respected.

  25. Tip jars are nice, but it is kind of a dancing monkey thing… people expect the monkey to dance no matter what if they even pay a few pennies. In part I think this is related to a bad understanding of ‘value’, We sometimes expect a great deal more for our money than it can be sometimes expected to be worth. We all have different ideas of what something is actually worth to us, in part based on how it affects our daily lives, a favourite book of someone a person might have no problem paying $1000 for a signed limited edition, especially if the book is older and the author has been deceased for many years… but your average reader would be less inclined to do so as their interest in the book is the content not an ephemeral value based on significance. And yet we all want our dollars to be spent in a worthwhile fashion, no one likes to be ripped off… buying something horrible didn’t just cost you $229.95, it feels like you were also taken out back and beaten with a stick (or things more horrible) if it didn’t do what you NEEDED it to do, and there was no way to get your money back. So sometimes we try and get our money to do a lot more than it really should because that way if it is a piece of crap you didn’t spend much and you probably got something else out of it besides. Reminds me where I bought an ebook that was wholly worthless consisted of like 32 pages of utterly useless information for $30. And yet came with a bunch of ‘bonus’ books, one of which actually was worth a good deal to me.

    Consumers expect far too much from tip jars, its why most webcomics guys who did tip jars went to merchandise instead, they make about the same profit per person, but the customer wasn’t paying for the webcomic guy or gal to draw, and meet deadlines, but for the t-shirt or mousepad instead.

  26. To those complaining about sales of music drying up due to filesharing:

    Maybe the problem is that the concept of making a living with music is the anomaly? How many recording artists were there in 2000 as compared to 1950? 1900? 1850? Just throwing this out there.

  27. making a living? or making a killing?
    —–

    Again with the unfounded insults Takuan. You’re nothing but a troll on these boards and you know you should be more. But a troll is what you are and troll posts are what you post.

  28. booga booga? How is that an insult? Making a living is making a living, making a killing is:

    “Well we are big rock singers, we’ve got golden fingers
    And we’re loved everywhere we go
    We sing about beauty and we sing about truth
    At ten thousand dollars a show
    We take all kind of pills to give us all kind of thrills
    But the thrill we’ve never known
    Is the thrill that’ll get you when you get your picture
    On the cover of the Rolling Stone

    Rolling Stone
    Wanna see my picture on the cover
    Rolling Stone
    Wanna buy five copies for my mother
    Rolling Stone
    Wanna see my smilin’ face
    On the cover of the Rolling Stone

    I’ve got a freaky old lady name o’ Cocaine Katy
    Who embroiders on my jeans
    I’ve got my poor old gray-haired Daddy
    Drivin’ my limousine
    Now it’s all designed to blow our minds
    But our minds won’t really be blown
    Like the blow that’ll get you when you get your picture
    On the cover of the Rolling Stone

    {Refrain}

    We got a lot of little teenage blue-eyed groupies
    Who do anything we say
    We got a genuine Indian guru
    He’s teachin’ us a better way
    We got all the friends that money can buy
    So we never have to be alone
    And we keep gettin’ richer but we can’t get our picture
    On the cover of the Rolling Stone”

    What is a “living”?

    (Booga booga!)

  29. In a world of 6 or 7 billion it shouldn’t be hard to find ten thousand or so willing to fund your efforts. So who cares if everyone else gets it for free.

    Fliesharing only devalued record companies. Filesharing should be considered free advertising for the next tour. Most musicians have always earned their money performing. They could then sell limited edition bits to the faithful.

  30. @24 I still disagree.

    I don’t listen to things like Boney M because there’s nothing new that sounds pleasant. It’s mainly for two reasons:

    1. My parents had a LP record which I liked when I was about 7, and I still like it now 20 years later.

    2. I can pick virtually any compilation of “Hits from the 60s” and be reasonably sure that most of it will sound good to me.

    There was lots and lots of crap in the 60s, I’m sure. I don’t think the 60s were any better music-wise than we have today. But enough time has passed that the worst junk has been forgotten. In contrast, when buying new music I actually have to make sure I’m not buying crap, and that’s a significant requirement for somebody who rarely just sits and listens to music.

    There’s enough old music now that I could buy more than what I want to listen to, without getting anything made in the last 20 years.

    I also don’t see at all your point about your friend. Do you expect maybe that it should be possible to sell the same 3 CDs for decades without declining sales? Welcome to the real world, then.

    Nothing happened to those fans. The ones that wanted the stuff bought the CDs. Eventually the point where everybody who wanted a CD had one was reached. Do you maybe expect the fans to purchase additional copies of the same CDs every year just to give the artist a constant income?

    ABBA was insanely popular when it was new. Now it’s included on compilation CDs. It’s not because of piracy, it’s because people heard their parents play Dancing Queen 50 times already and feel no need to get their own copy. There was a time when music by Aqua was heard frequently. Now there are many people who wouldn’t want it for free.

    There is a point when the market becomes saturated, especially for the less common genres like alternative music. Maybe there’s another alternative band who people like better. Maybe 20 of them. Maybe he didn’t do enough promotion and people don’t know there’s more content. Or maybe his style changed too much. For instance I really liked Theatre of Tragedy’s Aegis album. But after that they started moving towards a sort of mostly mindless techno that I find very uninteresting, so I’m not going to buy that.

  31. Beard of Bees @22: If you’re talking about the standard royalties paid on sales of trade and mass market fiction and nonfiction — that is, books sold in general-interest bookstores, and paperbacks sold on wire racks in places like drugstores — the author gets 6%-10% on mass-market paperbacks, and 7%-10% on trade paperbacks. For hardcovers, the standard royalty is 10% of the first 5000 sales, 12.5% of the next 5000, and 15% for all sales after that.

    Royalties are based on the cover price of all copies sold, regardless of bookstore discounts. Depending on the contract, lower royalties may be paid for special promotional sales, bulk sales, etc.

    Royalty arrangements are significantly different in technical publishing (computer books), textbooks, and other specialized areas.

  32. Neerner, I think I agree with you regarding the devaluation of the product based on file sharing.
    Isn’t that the premise in the Star Trek Universe? You have technology (replicators) that can make anything you want out of feed stock. So nothing has much worth and that’s why they don’t need money. We’ll always have a place for musical artists and writers, but how much value will be placed on their products? Maybe about as much value as we place on the free TV shows we watch (as we Tivo though the ads). I’m looking forward to the culture shock in the paper publishing world. College text books are being file-shared and that trend will continue to grow. Why buy the 100 dollar chem text when you can read it off your “slate” for free? My logical conclusion is that if you get used to file sharing text books, it’s not a huge jump for your brain to say “all books.” I could be very wrong.

  33. I feel kind of guilty because I read a lot but I never buy new. It all comes from the library and used book stores. When the author is dead or very well known it doesn’t pose an ethical challenge for me, but with non-best-selling contemporary artists, it does feel like I’m getting something for nothing. I worry I could be shortchanging authors in another way, too. How will they ever know I read their book? If I buy it at BookPeople, well, that information is passed along to the publisher, right? But if I wait six months, or six years, and get it at Half Price Books, how is my choosing that book above all others registered anywhere, except in the local cash register? I guess my buying it tells the store it is a valuable book and perhaps the store will offer more money to the next person who brings the same book into the store to sell, and then maybe they will be more likely to buy more new books because they know they can get a higher resale value. Or something like that.
    I really like the dandelion metaphor and I hope that this model distribution system works for Cory and other writers doing good work and trying to be something other than starving artists. Maybe that is the future and maybe it will work reasonably well for writers and consumers of literature. I just hope those dandelions don’t end up acting like an invasive species, crowding out diversity and leaving a sort of lowest common denominator monoculture in its place. Kind of like our current political landscape- ha ha.

  34. #33, honestly, your examples appear to contradict themselves w/ regards to “back catalog sales.” I cannot follow your logic re: a perceived difference between Abba back catalog sales and my friend’s back catalog sales. You appear to counter my arguments with data that backs up my arguments.

  35. #35, overall it’s not the worlds’ worst offense. In the Star Trek Universe there isn’t a lot of entertainment and some of the stuff is more folk music- people play “Ancient ballads” rather than follow current entertainers. In ST:TNG I remember more or less scientists performing music as a hobby.

    One thing that anyone with some age will tell you is that in the 1970s the tough kids and wannabe tough kids all wanted to learn to play guitar or drums and that was true up until the early 1990s when I started hearing about local “DJs” but these DJs were horrible and just starting out trying to mix between records and I realized that their personality type and the kid who wanted to be the next Greg Ginn were basically the same- they didn’t have a great voice and they wanted to be like their “hero.” So, you devalue music and you’re left in a period where people continually look back to music like the 1960s for inspiration because the people doing really interesting work have left the music field because they’re no longer heroes.

    The same thing happened to poetry after sometime in the mid 1970s. Culturally it ceased to be part of the mainstream. I just bought a large lot of high school yearbooks from the 60s and 70s and every senior had a quote from Whitman or Burns or some real serious poet. Then in the 1975 yearbook they’re all Bob Dylan or Rolling Stones quotes and only the worst nerd is quoting a historical poet. Poetry became interchangeable with song lyrics and I doubt a high school senior could name a modern poet who isn’t a singer.

    Is the loss of poetry and the loss of musicians a big loss? I dunno, but I do not believe anyone who suggests that it’s not a corporate decision by the manufacturers of consumer electronic devices to drive content manufacturers out of the marketplace. All the talk about the RIAA and record companies smells entirely of astroturf. It’s a battle of ipod manufacturers vs record labels and the manufacturing lawyers are winning big time in public perception.

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