Last evening I reviewed a book by Charles Stross. Today, I’d like to encourage you to read his essay The monetization paradox (or why Google is not my friend). It’s got me thinking about how we can ensure that writers still write books. And also measuring: I discovered that, since 2003, I’ve written 1.22 million words in this space. Yow.
The problem of how we pay for journalism is hot stuff right now, as current business models seem pretty well done for and we don’t have replacements in sight. Stross broadens the question: How do we arrange to pay writers to write? He drills down and does some numbers, with specific reference to Google’s business model; I’m not sure I’m 100% convinced by his analysis, but I’m glad I read it.
Among other things, he’s pretty unhappy about the Google Books settlement. So, now I am too. I’ve assumed, based on history, that anything a traditional-media-company executive says about the Internet is stupid and wrong. On those grounds, I’d ignored the publishers’ whining about Google. But if it’s going to damage the business model for people like Stross, then that’s a problem for me personally, because I enjoy reading his works and would like to be able to go on paying something in the range of current book prices in order to do so.
Stross is also negative about Kindle, even with the recent royalty adjustment from Amazon; I think that’s premature simply because we have no understanding yet of what the business impact is going to be of having moved from dead trees to downloadable bits.
We really need an economic structure that incents writers to write, or there goes one of the best arguments for having a civilization at all. On that basis, I think it behooves more of us to get real excited about this.
I have exactly zero expectation that the traditional publishing business is a good source of ideas on how to build the next one. But to start with, do please go read Charlie’s rant.
I may have a very personal motive, as well. Stross’ remarks about how many words he can write per year motivated me to wonder how much I have, so I wrote a little Ruby script to run over the XML source files for ongoing and count ’em. The actual number, not including this article, was 1,222,909. It’s inexact, not including titles and image alt texts, but including some documents I’ve copied-in, not actually written. Close enough. By the way, the average piece here has 355 or so words.
So I was actually thinking, in the not unlikely event that I find myself between jobs real soon now, that I should combine some blog mining and heads-down writing and try to produce a book. I even have a title picked: Life Online. Because I’ve been living that way since the Eighties and have written a whole bunch about it and think I could be amusing on the subject for a few hundred pages, while providing some useful advice.
But you know, just like Charlie Stross, I’d like to get paid for it. Any publishers reading this?