Blacksmiths & novelists revisited: The Scott Adams Theory of Content Value

Collin’s not the only one comparing professional writers to blacksmiths, these days. Scott Adams, e.g, of “Dilbert” fame, presents his Adams Theory of Content Value: “As our ability to search for media content improves, the economic value of that content will approach zero.”

The fate of the author in the age of digital gizmodery (with apologies to Scott Adams):

Among other things, Adams predicts “that the profession known as ‘author’ will be retired to history in my lifetime, like blacksmith and cowboy. In the future, everyone will be a writer, and some will be better and more prolific than others. But no one will pay to read what anyone else creates. People might someday write entire books – and good ones – for the benefit of their own publicity, such as to promote themselves as consultants, lecturers, or the like. But no one born today is the next multi-best-selling author. That job won’t exist.”

(Just by the way, he also makes interesting comparisons of Kindle e-books and the iPad and their respective effects on developments as the value of books drops to bugger all.)

The bright side? Adams’ theory affords another reason, a good one, not to work on Free Lunch, my perennially nascent novel and source of nagging guilt that I’m not working on it, something that interferes with the business of getting on with my life as a freelancing lad about town.

4 thoughts on “Blacksmiths & novelists revisited: The Scott Adams Theory of Content Value”

  1. Denis Charles Vaillancourt Scott Adams sounds like a true post-modern neo-tech.
    Today writers do not create literature they generate content.
    Content must have an economic value or it is worthless.
    So the economic imperative is to bring down the cost of production.
    It may be time to explore a possible strategic alliance between writers, blacksmiths and a thousand and eight monkeys banging on keyboards.
    Or perhaps we can increase the value of “content” by making literature less accessible, like the opposite Gutenberg.
    We have options here but what about a random Internet where what you type in to your search engine has nothing to do with what the search engine returns?
    Just a thought.

  2. Collin Piprell That’s right. Writers (and that’ll be everyone) will soon be generating content in the way dinosaurs generated enough methane, in some opinion, to induce climate change and bring about their own extinction. (Others, of course, argue that it was an asteroid or a super volcano that did the trick. and maybe an asteroid will come along and end our writerly worries before our own emissions of content smother us.) But hey, it’s still early in the morning, here in Bangkok, and I’ll cheer up as soon as I’ve had breakfast. 🙂

  3. I take comfort in the fact that there are still professional blacksmiths and cowboys working in America, and they’re paid a lot more than blacksmiths and cowboys were paid 100 years ago. Watch Antiques Roadshow and see what the price of 100-year-old books is today. The person who can repair and restore a Tiffany lamp gets paid more than the men who made the lamp. Almost anything has a niche market, whether it’s organic produce, acupuncture, dog whispering, ironmongery or cow punching. I think that anybody with talent and a work ethic will always find a way to be compensated. I’m working at a Shakespeare Festival right now; all professional. Actors, technicians, designers, all paid a living wage. People pay 20 dollars for a ticket and fill the theater every night. None of us is getting rich, but we’re all getting paid. Of course, the author is not getting paid, but I’ll bet he doesn’t care.

    • Hey, Steve. Thanks for this much-needed positivity amid the prevailing deluge of doom and dourness. (Pardon the rampant alliteration; I was briefly possessed by the ghost of Spiro Agnew, there.) Still, the main reason I write books is I wanted eventually to be able to drink champagne out of my swimming pool, if only I could clear enough groupies out of the way that I get a sip. That’s looking less likely, in the new market. Truth be told I don’t even like champagne that much, and maybe I can live with developments.

      Tell me more about the festival.

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