Friday, January 11, 2013

Weekend Reading: The Digital Disruption Edition

Long time readers might remember that I'm strangely interested in the way in which new digital technologies are disrupting creative industries like publishing and music. My main stake in this is as a consumer- I want to see writers and musicians make money from their efforts, because I like to read and listen to music- but I also just find this a fascinating example of how technology changes the world in unexpected ways.

Anyway, my links today are all related to this digital disruption, this time of the publishing industry.

First up, Sci-Fi author Tobias Buckell has a detailed description of how he used Kickstarter to fund the 4th installment of a series that had solid fan support but was losing ground in conventional bookstores. It is a long, but interesting read, and after finishing it I went over to Amazon and bought the first installment of the series (Crystal Rain), because it sounded like something I might enjoy. I haven't had time to start it yet, though. Maybe soon.

I found that first post via a post from Scalzi's Whatever blog. Scalzi is also experimenting with new ways of selling his work- he's got a serialized book in his popular Old Man's War universe going (here's the first installment, The Human Division #1: The B-Team). I'm interested in that one, too, but I still have one more of the "standard" books in that series to read first, so I'm not doing the installment thing, and will probably end up buying it as a complete book later (apparently, the total cost will be the same either way). I think the idea of reviving the serialized novel is intriguing, though, so I'll be interested to see how Scalzi's experiment goes.

Even authors who publish strictly traditional books via traditional publishers have been touched by the digital realm, since there is a lot of emphasis on using blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and all that to self-promote. GalleyCat had an interesting post about J.A. Konrath's advice to writers to "get over yourself" and just write. There is almost certainly some truth in that advice- similar to the advice to bloggers to stop worrying so much about stats and worry more about producing good posts. However, it is also true that some authors get a lot of business from their blogs. That is how I found John Scalzi, and I've now bought four of his books and intend to buy more. The very first link in this post is another example- without blog posts, I probably would never have heard of Tobias Buckell, much less bought one of his books. I suspect that authors who genuinely like blogging/tweeting/whatever and build up a true independent community around their online presence will find that presence helpful to their careers. Authors who don't enjoy social media are probably better served taking Konrath's advice. But I am not an expert in this area by any means, so that is just an informed gut instinct.

Moving on... I can't remember if it was a tweet or a post from Ginger at Ramble Ramble that led me to this article about how lending may be a more "natural" approach to books than ownership. I liked the article so much that I went and bought the eBook it references, Information Wants to Be Shared, by Joshua Gans. I read that book over Christmas, and it was full of interesting ideas. It takes an economics approach to the question of how information producers can get paid. I recommend it highly to anyone interested in the topic.

Over at The Guardian, Cory Doctorow has an interesting article on a different aspect of this discussion, looking at the impact of people trying to extract payment for "positive externalities."

One obvious "digital disruption" is the ease with which people can self-publish writing, music and other creative things. This is good, but perhaps it has had a less desirable side effect of making it ever easier for people to accuse creative types who actually make money from their efforts of "selling out." There was an interesting discussion about that recently, which appropriately seems to have started on Twitter. Charlie Jane Anders at i09 has a summary of the tweets and a discussion of the issue, and Scalzi followed up with a post on the topic. Interesting stuff.

And that's it for this week. As always, feel free to weigh in on any of the topics raised by these links in the comments.

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