Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: state of NY publishing

From: Steve Novak (
Date: 13 Nov 2009

  • Next message: jacquesdebierue: "RARA-AVIS: Re: state of NY publishing"

    Merci for this excellent and interesting analysis...

    Montois de Détroit and thus a neighbor Michigander...

    On 11/13/09 11:54 AM, "" <> wrote:

    > Warning! Warning! I'm going to meander even more than I usually do on this
    > list, where I constantly endeavour to take a view from so far outside the
    > thread topic that I suspect many of you don't get what I'm on about, ever.
    > As a published but not especially successful author I find this
    > woes-of-technolgoy thread somewhat amusing, having gone through so many of the
    > arguments five, ten, even fifteen years ago up here in Canuckville. I recall
    > mostly the blank looks on occassional mid-list American authors and fans at
    > crime-writing cons when locals addressed the impact that changing technologies
    > were having on a fragile industry in an already small marketplace. Visitors
    > from just across the border could not seem to grasp that even their much
    > bigger markets could be fractured by the proliferation of media. It's
    > difficult to understand from within such situations, that we are reacting to
    > an already accomplished fact, and that as destructive as it may be perceived
    > to be, especially personally, the change is consistent with much longer termed
    > trends.
    > We forget that consumers have not directly paid for popular culture content
    > for a very long time, and that the primary medium for content such as popular
    > crime fiction shifted away from print decades ago, to television where
    > advertisers directly footed the bill (consumers indirectly picking up the tab
    > with their Wheaties- it's a bit like "free" parking at the shopping mall.)
    > Advertisers needed content that drew mass audiences (to support industrial era
    > mass consumption and mass production) and that meant popular culture ran on
    > the star system that even back in the '50s and '60s, and I suspect though
    > perhaps to a lesser degree much earlier than that, many writers and other
    > creative types toiled with little liklihood of achieving the significant
    > financial success achieved by a very few. But they persisted nevertheless, and
    > the sheer volume of free content (good, bad or indifferent) available through
    > the now much broader range of digital media (from POD to YouTube) puts to rest
    > any concerns that cultural production will decrease, let alone cease, without
    > the promise of financial reward.
    > Not that this doesn't come with its own set of problems, but I think
    > perspective is gained when we remember that it is probable that through the
    > last fifty years at least, however many people earned their livings from
    > writing fiction for popular media consumption, they were still the tip of the
    > writing iceberg. Most had second jobs, if they were lucky in related fields
    > such as academia, advertising and arts administration, or even more often in
    > entirely unrelated fields. Ross Macdonald was a teacher. Hammet, Chandler and
    > others even tried, with varied success, writing Hollywood screenplays to
    > supplement drinking habits that short stories and novels could barely keep
    > afloat.
    > This situation should renew our appreciation for the intelligence of Henry
    > Ford, whose vital contribution to the industrial/consumer economy was to
    > harness mass production so that even his assembly-line employees could afford
    > the products they were producing. Our problem in the creative, digital
    > information economy is that by and large we cannot, and mostly haven't for a
    > long time. This becomes a bigger problem when the availability of those second
    > supportive jobs are threatened by shrinkage in the industrial-based economy.
    > But there do appear to be some practical steps, again not entirely new, that
    > point a way forward.
    > I don't think that restricting access to creative product through copyright
    > legislation will significantly enhance financial reward, even for those at the
    > top of the old star system, let alone mid-list writers and even lowly wannabes
    > such as myself. Enhanced distribution is a boon, not a threat to culture.
    > Musicians encounted this problem long ago when radio played their records for
    > listeners to hear free, and again when tape cassettes allowed fans to copy and
    > share recordings without paying the original artists. The "solution", limited
    > as it was, was to collect small fees from radio stations and the producers of
    > blank tape cartridges and based on representative surveys of whose music was
    > being consumed and copied, send cheques to registered, qualifying musicians.
    > This isn't perfect, perhaps not even just, but it focused on providing
    > financial incentive for creativity through the expansion of cultural
    > participation, rather than trying to squeeze more bucks by limiting access.
    > It's better than most alternatives considered, in other words.
    > I'm not sure what's happening stateside, but up here in South Ont. I get a
    > couple of cheques, happily around Christmastime, one from Access Canada based
    > on the possibility/probability that some of my work has been photocopied in
    > the past year, and one based on a similar possibility/probability that my
    > books may have been borrowed from a public or institutional library. They
    > aren't big cheques, but they are more than I earn in direct royalties. A
    > similar system could be established for work copied via the internet, the
    > money collected from the manufacturers of digital media capturing devices
    > (computers basically) and/or the providers of internet connection services.
    > Trying to collect fees from end users is tough. They're small, nimble, mobile,
    > elusive. Computer manufacturers and internet service providers tend to be
    > larger and advertise their whereabouts and activities in local media and
    > telephone directories.
    > In addition to providing the means for individual consumers to skirt paying
    > directly for creative content, computers and digital software make it much
    > easier to keep track of consumption trends and to registered creators. It's
    > just a matter of determining at what point the dollars can be accessed. I
    > don't even get a cheque for one of my annual payments. The cash (can I still
    > call it that?) goes directly to my bank account, or rather, is registered
    > directly under my account number on my bank's computer. I just love how money,
    > which is increasingly important in our daily lives, is not even worth the
    > paper it is no longer printed on. Money is a blip, an electronic + or - on my
    > computer screen. Do I digress?
    > Well, here's another benefit of this reward system: the more I use digital
    > technology to adapt my content for multi-media distribution (POD print,
    > YouTube shorts, recorded readings, cell-phone ringtones, the mind boggles) the
    > more such payments I might/should qualify for. Oh what a happy, happy, perfect
    > world it turns out to be afterall!
    > My point, I think, if I have one, is that the challenges of changing
    > technology are not especially new, and certainly not unique to the creative
    > community. In fact, what I think has happened is that the decline of
    > industrial manufacturing in North America has produced a need to focus on the
    > long-lacking importance of developing economic models that will support the
    > growing production of creative content in the information economy. This shift
    > in employment from manufacturing things to manufacturing information is fully
    > underway regardless of the limitations in financial support for creative
    > producers, and won't be turned back. Unlike Henry Ford's workers, we don't
    > need to make the products they make more or less affordable. Cheap and free
    > creative product is all over the internet, television, radio etc. But we do
    > need to make it possible for the producers of creative product to buy
    > groceries and pay rent, now they've lost their assembly-line jobs and/or
    > pensions. The expansion, in both reach and value, of fee-related services such
    > as those I've described would at least be heading in that direction.
    > Oh, and here's another thought, the result of a comment dropped on a local TV
    > show during a discussion about the recent anniversary of Sesame Street.
    > Apparently the cost of producing most children's television programming is not
    > met directly through sales of broadcast rights. This creative production is
    > also supported by merchandising. This is interesting to me because I'd have to
    > say that of all the free content available on multi-channel telly, kids
    > programming is the best in terms of quality in both production and content.
    > Much better than the endless Popeye and Betty Boop cartoon re-runs that made
    > me the man I am today. So to get more bucks from your creative endeavours,
    > trying thinking of the dick in your latest work-in-progress as an
    > action-figure doll. Or maybe as an avitar (is that the right word?) you can
    > sell on a fantasy-world website.
    > There. That should bore the piss out of you, and I think it's worth a nickel
    > at least, especially as I've had to look up the spelling of "nickel."
    > Kerry

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