It was all foretold in Finnegans Wake. It could have been, anyway.
There’s just no end to human ingenuity. Now you don’t even have to buy an e-book reader to suffer Internet interconnectivity. Ubimark has developed a way for readers to evoke Web connections from a print book by way of cellphone camera and browser. Have a look at the following item (short article & video), “Putting the Web inside the printed book.”
Ubimark, iPads and Vooks are only a few of the fast-growing number of fixes to connect books with the Internet. Whoopee! Or should that be whoops? Because the reading public’s already severely diminished attention span is being ever-further eroded by technological developments. But what the heck, eh? “Real” books will soon have gone the way of the dodo anyway, so few will notice, probably only the digital phobics among us.
RIP, books. Publishers and agents may well get be buried with them, and the soon-to-be-even-more-thoroughly-starving writers aren’t going to be far behind. The Unemployed Blacksmith’s Support Group is now accepting novelists into its (somewhat aged) ranks.
Here, for example, is one recently much-remarked crie de coeur from well-known American writer Garrison Keillor, one that is being echoed by writers everywhere. In fact, I feel a howl of indignation and incipient despair welling up in me right now… No, wait. That’s just the leftover curry from breakfast.
Some writers aren’t bothered, mind you. Live with it, they suggest—that’s what’s happening, so adapt. Find new ways to prosper in the new market. Joe Konrath, e.g., argues we should embrace self-publishing with enthusiasm, and have confidence that such things as advertising will soon begin to make the writing life sustainable. In the meantime, he’s putting his books out for rock-bottom prices or for free and doing fine.
His arguments echo, to some extent, those of Cory Anderson, Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future) and Chris Anderson (Free: The Future of a Radical Price), who essentially suggest that once something—whether music, books, movies or software—has been digitalized, it is effectively in the public domain and free, no matter how many copyright laws you pass or lawyers you hire. So, again, learn to live with it.
Better, be quicker than the pirates to give it away, meanwhile figuring out how to earn an income from evolving new marketing models.
They’re probably right, not that I’m entirely comfortable with these ideas. To speak of protecting this sort of “intellectual property”, in the digital age, is mostly wishful thinking.
But other respected voices in publishing see things differently, and believe we should resist book piracy. See e.g. “A Matter of Ethics”, by “Ethicist” (NY Times) in Part 2 of Mike Shatzkin’s detailed forecast of the next 20 years in the publishing industry.
In any case, the publishing industry continues to fast evolve. New technological and marketing developments are reported almost weekly, it seems, and I’m holding off on paying for the lifetime membership in the Unemployed Blacksmiths & Novelists Support Group (UBNSG).
* What vowels would make that acronym pronounceable?