Imagine this: for the same price, you can either buy one book (or attend one movie) or you can have access, for one or two or possibly even three months, to a collection that makes the legendary Library at Alexandria seem pointless. Which would you choose?
More and more people are choosing to pay for access rather than ownership. Companies like Netflix and Amazon are at the tip of the spear on this issue because they are central to what technology has made so ubiquitous now. I have a Netflix membership, for example, because ten bucks is far less than I would spend on buying movies I would like to see—never mind rentals and satellite or cable service. These may not be the latest greatest shows, but I also don’t have to try to explain anti-depression ads to my seven year old. For me, it’s a no brainer.
The same kinds of generally accepted “best practices” are being challenged in the world of books. What’s happening in publishing is akin to a reformation, really, and it’s all market-driven. The savvy authors and publishers are rising up, challenging the self-appointed Keepers of the Flame of Tradition (or whatever) and asking the question, “why does it still have to be done the old way?” This is like a guy standing up in church and asking why there’s this crazy dividing line between pastors and the “throng” when we’re all supposedly brothers. Such temerity is usually received with a gasp of shock.
The Big Six can be as shocked as they wanna be. What’s happening in media today is placing Power in the hands of the people, and the market is sorting out and rewarding appropriately those with the ability to handle it. What’s happening in publishing now is pretty much what happened in music in the age of Napster. Unfortunately for them, the powers that be are reacting in pretty much the same way; attempting to hold on to the conventional business model and in the process losing everything. All that will be left for those who want to “own” is the ultra-niche, like rare and antique books.
I am fortunate enough to be a part of a company that has embraced the access side of the access v ownership debate. It only makes sense that, rather than pay $25 for a hardcover book, people can buy eBook versions for their eReader for a fraction of that and carry their not inconsiderable library with them wherever they go. And by the way, did you know that Kindle can display most office docs too? Yeah, it’s pretty neat. What’s even neater is how, every once in a while, a secret gateway opens in the deep woods of life and maybe once a guy just happens to be standing right by it when it happens.
People like Aaron Patterson have been shouting about this for a long time now, and I’m joining the chorus. What’s weird is how so many people are so stuck in their ruts of strife that they’d rather stick with the familiarity of failure and rejection (authors? Do ya hear me?) than explore the possibilities. Oh well. More for me, I guess.
Chris is acquisitions editor for StoneHouse Ink and has co-written a thriller with Aaron Patterson entitled Airel. He has also started up the illustrated Jammy adventure series for kids. Check out his other blog and his Web site.