All sorts of people with all kinds of political opinions read this blog.
Some are revolutionaries: “All content must be free! News should be free! Books should be free!”
Some are professional news publishers: “We’ve made our news free on the Web, and we’re hoping that we can make a good enough income from advertising to pay for gathering it, but it’s tough since we can’t sell full-page display ads any more, and we can see newspapers going out of business – but we live in hope”.
Some are book publishers: “We’re experimenting with digital books but we don’t want to cannibalize our existing print business, although that means we still have to carry its production costs, and we’re afraid that once books get out there in digital formats they’ll just be copied and we’ll lose all revenue”.
Many revolutionaries believe that most professional publishers are big corporate entities who have been making obscene profits and controlling what information makes it into print. “Just like the record companies did with music, and we know what happened to them…”.
It’s a worry. I don’t think it’s heresy to say that not all writers – and not all information – are created equal. I think it’s a good thing that the barriers to publishing have come down. A lot of material which didn’t get published in the past – but deserved to be – now has the ability to compete on equal terms with professionally-published content. But you ought to be able to depend on professionally-published content to be better-written, -edited and -produced. If the professional content isn’t better, then it deserves to lose out.
I can’t for the life of me see how you can get advertising to pay for books. It may pay for news. But even there, I have to say I’m spoiled by my life as a Brit until less than 15 years ago. Anyone brought up on the BBC has a hard time watching US television, (or listening to US radio) because of the way the programs are so broken up by advertising. Even commercial television in the UK confined its adverts to between programs or in slots every 15 minutes during programs (at least, it used to – things may have changed…)
The BBC received its income from the UK Government – which got part of that back from viewers via the annual TV License fee. The model of state-funded TV worked in the case of the BBC – which always seemed independent enough to get into trouble with the Government of the Day, whatever its political complexion. Of course, in many countries it doesn’t work that way…
Microsoft and Real Networks are trying an “unlimited music for a monthly license fee” model. Remains to be seen how that will pan out, especially given Apple’s virtual monopoly of the digital music player marketplace.
I’d really like to hear people’s ideas on this issue, related to reading material. But positive ideas only, please! If you just want to rant at The System or The Mindless Revolutionaries, please do it somewhere else…