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The Threat to the Consuming Market

Being bombarded with inept prose, shoddy ideas, incoherent grammar, boring plots and insubstantial characters — not to mention ton after metric ton of clichés — for hours on end induces a state of existential despair that’s almost impossible to communicate to anyone who hasn’t been there themselves: Call it ______

TV sitcoms?

(Ok, maybe cheap a shot. They have solid grammar.)

Blogs instead of “proper news services by trained journalists?

Wikipedia instead of a “proper” encyclopedia?

The printing press that common citizens can own?

Literacy for the masses who are not even trained in history, logic and reasoning like priests and lawyers?

Which threat is this that’s impending?

The slush pile according to Laura Miller at Salon.

The paper and digital marketplace may be overrun by an evil — people able to communicate. Like with text and stuff. (Maybe even with pictures allowed.) With more choices of voices. Egad.

I knew from sentence one I would get prickly from the slant. The 2000 words start by comparing a dictator’s death to the Death of Publishing. It presumes publishing will die, and argues this will cause worse chaos: More options for knowledge.

Comparable arguments as against sex ed and porn: can’t let people learn ideas or they won’t learn it perfectly and perfection’s steady march will be impinged on by the masses. The masses will be impaired by too much access to too much. Peoples, they can’t handle it.

Why does change get rung in with Armageddon fear that all will go to hell in a handbasket and (gasp) it won’t even be a Gucci one? Isn’t this a case of popular argument, substituting speculation for investigation? (Yes, my reference is a comic strip. Your point?)

Isn’t that selling people short? People work out ways to get to goods they want, and to convince others they have goods worth wanting. The means may shift and so do people.

Some things are best left unremarked on and should be left dangling to just swim past, but seriously, leave this ignored?

One thing is true: Aspiring authors have never had more or better options for self-publishing the manuscripts currently gathering dust in their desk drawers or sleeping in seldom-visited corners of their hard drives.

How dismissive is that? Wait, is this The Onion?

Right, because authors will be able to place work faster than they can polish it and want so badly to pad their CV with half-baked work for the millions that will bring in that people will be forced to deal with low quality reading material. Result? Human genius will never leave obscurity. The solution? All thoughts lesser but perfected genius must be silenced so these can be heard?

Apparently it is the fault of not enough gate keepers to keep unworthy things from the market. The wisdom of crowds and the capacity of people to sort out this issue isn’t up to the task.

And what’s this notion in her article that people go to book superstores and Amazon and find what they want thus don’t need more books on the market?

(Double-check) Nope, I didn’t read that wrong.

Even when I know books exist, sourcing them is hard, even by request thru indie stores. Superstores have many things, but like general stores do not preclude speciality stores from existing.

Yes, open a big box store and people to herd over from small family businesses. People short-sightedly buy whatever is cheap without considering where it comes from or the effect on local economy.

That won’t change if we limit producers and product.

Some of the market will want to buy local and small-run, at any economic cost because they have the ideology so inclined and the disposable income to allow them to pay more for products that are made in places where the cost of living is higher. Some people will make trade-offs to afford more expensive, harder to find, vetted, objects to read.

Some will want to buy cheap and internationally masses-vetted or marketing-corp-vetted, regardless of any systems cost. Printing overseas where paper and labour is cheaper using the economy of scale, shared distribution networks lower unit costs of any given distribution, centralization of warehouses and marketing, having automatic systems instead of man hours bring down the costs. This scale of printing has a winnowing effect of what makes it to print and wide distribution. It represent one niche of the market. Some people love books that are cheap and can be blown thru quickly. Not all the diet has to be artisan fibre.

Some will do both. But individuals choose that. Making more gatekeepers to prevent people from joining the marketplace as producers won’t change the market behavior.

Being able to get more reading material in more forms means more high carb reading material may zoom thru the system, but also can be the means of access for more high nutrient, high protein ideas to come.

She reports,

Bowker, a company that tracks industry statistics, calculated that, in 2009 alone, new titles published outside of “traditional publishing and classification definitions” numbered 764,448. Yes, you read that right: upward of three-quarters of a million books in a single year. Not all of those books were intended for a general readership, but

Intimidation by big numbers? Being able to know everything was never the case. Even Renaissance men, when scientific knowledge was smaller, never contained all of human knowledge nor could know all that was said anywhere.

The long tail effect is very long and people have lived in parallel lives with each other, away from each each other, in text and not in text. We have always accessed knowledge by what comes by us, one life at a time, worked out routes to ideas that resonated.

A canon of a dozen titles “everyone knows”, for example, imposed from above, would create one kind of world from one kind of world that omits some aspects of existence. A world where there are 6,830,586,985 of us human ants able to move around, communicate cross-culturally, travel by jet and internet, creates a different set of dynamics of what can be accessed. This is an advantage, not a threat.

We have 1 billion of us living in squatter slums. 82 percent of the world’s adult population are literate in one language or several. [UNFPA] That makes for a lot of people who might want to communicate with a group in text instead of one-on-one face-to-face. Is that the end of publishing? Or more people born and publishing and more people who wish to read?

It’s not worth the energy to call her on some of that, in a way. She’s upset. The economy is shifting. Businesses are closing. If people don’t buy enough books to pay the rent of authors, publishers, bookstores, the whole economic superstructure built on market expansion to sell communication, who’s to blame?

Selling words when people offer them for free is hard at any times. Market is fickle and most people don’t trade their time and cash without consideration. The time to consume words for any given audience is finite. That puts more pressure on the system.

I’m part of that problem, offering words for free, just as if we were talking in air without making anyone buy any of them here. Free undercuts the competition for time. Time is the finite resource more than money.

Those who sell ideas in text, like in newspapers, chapbooks, magazines and books are in competition with everything in existence for time…sports, family, music, marathons, human rights, botany research and fridge sales. It’s all a closed system and trade-offs. That doesn’t mean we should try to cap any of the rest of the system in the name of protecting publishing. Ok, so I’m an optimist. it will all shake out.

Newspapers and magazines, did they take a downturn when people could photocopy handbills/broadsides? Or are they complementary feeding an appetite for ideas?

Is it like a shoe store opening beside a shoe store? Intuitively you’d think that would create a loss of business but then 5 shoe stores open in a row and people know to go there because if one store doesn’t have it, another one might. By cooperating with goods and information, in this closed system of the planet, we create more demand for the real product which is not paper, or calfskin or papyrus or Kindles but a means to get to ideas and ultimately each other.

(About 1370 words. Web-unfriendly length. I’ve been about as verbose. Pah. )

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