Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Worse than Television

"What have you created and released?" Charlie Stross asks.

Well, as anyone who looks at this probably knows:
  • two short novels, with a third on the way
  • A few short stories (temporarily unavailable because the Dead Channel is down)
  • More than a decade ago, Mingw32 (which has been much improved by the efforts of others since I moved on)


I've sent out a few pictures here and there as well.

On the other hand, I don't believe (at all) that creative people are obligated to give away their work for free. Some of my best friends are authors, or aspiring authors. I've given my work away for free because, while I love to write, I don't have the need or the time and energy to get paid for it, at least for the time being. It would take a lot of work to go pro. There's probably another blog post in that whole topic.

What prompted this, though, aside from a desire to brag (sorry), is piracy.

Specifically, I have this gut feeling that piracy is not the root cause of the crisis in publishing (or the crisis in music). Which is not to say there isn't a crisis, or that copying somebody's work against their will isn't wrong. However, I have the feeling that the industry's problems are coming from elsewhere. One of these places is a general economic downturn. We're all less willing to spend money on stuff.

The other part is a proliferation of distractions, many of them legitimately free. I could easily spend all my time on the internet, on twitter and in web forums, and without infringing on anyone's copyright. I hardly watch TV any more at all. I have DVDs for a series that I bought last year still sitting unwatched. I have deliberately started scheduling reading time for myself so I don't spend all of my time on the net and forget the pleasure of books.

Some of these distractions are even "creative." I might not be writing and drawing at all without the internet. I can spend time editing Wikipedia articles or participating in online discussions. I can spend time looking for references and information related to my next project. This blog itself is a distraction from reading I could be doing to help some professional author make ends meet. It's part of the attraction of the internet, that you can be doing creative, or at least interactive, things with it. It feels so much more fulfilling than vegetating in front of a TV set. And yet, this is, I think, helping to destroy the publishing industry.

What should we do about it? Hell, I don't know. I'm certainly not going to suggest people should step back from the keyboards and leave it to the professionals. There has to be some recognition that doing great work requires dedication and a lot of hard work that should translate into a tangible reward. I worry quite a bit about works of art and literature might not be created because talented people can't make a living producing them. I think eventually a balance will emerge, but I also think it's going to be messy for a while.

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