When I buy a book, I am effectively buying water (the content) and a bucket (the actual book, with all it entails). I am taught that most of the value is in the bucket, because that’s what pricing is keyed off of. Hard vs. Softcover establishes the price, not the quality of the content, nor even things I might take as indicators of quality, like the author. So right off the bat, the bucket industry has trained me that the price of water is low, maybe even free. They don’t care though, because they make their money on buckets.
To muddle things further, I have been taught by living in a civilized society that it is entirely reasonable for me to drink the water for free as long as I don’t steal the bucket. That is, once I own a book, i can resell it or give it away and if I don’t own the book I can read it for free by borrowing it from a friend or from the library, or even just by having it read to me. Once again, I’m taught that the value is in the bucket.
Now, the bucket makers aren’t necessarily happy with this arrangement, but they’re kind of obliged to deal with it. Part of that is social pressure – this freedom is part of the culture of books, and fighting it makes you the bad guy – but another part of it is more cynical. See, every other non-consumable good in society is tied to these rules as well – you can gift and loan tools, jewelry, cars or anything else you can think of. To buck this trend, the bucket makers would have to say “Well, wait a minute, we’re different than these other goods. We have this great water which has value of a different kind” and that’s a problem, because so far the whole model is based on putting value on the buckets, not the water, so they don’t want to upset that cart.
This has worked great for a very long time, and people really love their buckets, but some crazy guy has invented plumbing. Suddenly I can get my water from the source, and that really fucks things up. The ways in which it fucks things up are a whole other conversation, but here’s the bit that interests me.
What happens when, if I want to make a gift of a book, I don’t need to buy a new bucket?
See, I will never feel bad about libraries or gifting read books, at least under the current model, but I also feel it probably hurts creators more than anyone else. The idea of “gifting” an electronic file really means “giving a duplicate” unless you want to do something particularly cumbersome with it, and I can see a universe where, in the absence of buckets, the cost of that is small enough to pay casually, and goes directly to the creator.
Sure, this upends a lot of assumption. If money goes to the creator directly, he then becomes the person who has to _hire_ all the people who make a book possible rather than them hiring him. That’s drastic, so much so that it may seem impossible. But in my gut, I’m wondering if it’s the only possible outcome.
PS – So it’s clear, this is not a “Death to Publishers!” position, merely a “The roles of everyone involved in the book chain are potentially subject to drastic change over the next decade or three”
I don’t want to wake up and look at a screen. I feel like as a society, we try to put everything on that same goddamn screen, and pretty soon we’re going to be eating on the screen or, like, making love through the screen. It’s just sort of like: ‘Why does everything have to be on the screen?’
Some beardy druid from the oral tradition, a few thousand years back:
I don’t want to wake up and look at paper. I feel like as a society, we try to put everything on that same (Brythonic swear word) piece of paper, and pretty soon we’re going to be eating on paper or, forsooth, making love through paper. It’s just sort of like: “Why does everything have to be on the paper?”
Engineers are wired to learn how to build stuff well, and as they continue to do that someone eventually thinks it’s a good idea to promote them to become managers. These new managers initially believe the essential skills of building that made them successful as engineers will apply to the building of people, and they don’t. It’s their experience that matters.
Management is a total career restart. One of the first lessons a new manager discovers, either through trial and error or instruction, is that the approaches they used for building product aren’t going to work when it comes to people. However, this doesn’t mean all of the experience is suddenly irrelevant. In fact, it’s that experience that creates the Twinge.
n Mad Men, Pete Campbell seems stuck in an endlessly deferred coming-of-age tale. Though he has the wife and the apartment and the executive job, he doubts that he is a man, at least not a man like his bullying father, or a man like Don Draper. In describing the series, Matthew Weiner has said: “We’d all like to be Don but actually we are all Pete.”
Every day you let fear keep you from the work, the terror has won.