I’ve written previously on this topic, but I felt inclined to revisit it today.
The writing industry, like many other industries, is in the process of being transformed by technology, specifically the Internet. Technology is having a variety of effects on the written word, many of which are detrimental. First, the English language (and most probably all the other ones) are disintegrating beneath an avalanche of abbreviations. Dn’t u think so 2? The art of writing still exists, and there are a select number of individuals who can still make a living at it, but a new threat is rising. The ebook.
The ebook is, basically, a digital book. As opposed to the standard paperback or hardcover, the digital book can be copied almost endlessly, and transferred over wires and through the air. This leads to a few difficult issues, such as copyright problems, and perhaps even easier information theft, however, the ease of production and copying has led to a reduction in prices (excepting where a few monopolistic concerns are involved) and increased availability. If one visits a site like Smashwords one will find a host of books under $5 or even free, a far cry from the typical $10 or $12 normally required for a traditional book. A search on Google for “free ebooks” leads to a whole page of options where one can be entertained for free. One takes a risk, though, with a free ebook—because it is so easy to produce one, quality is not guaranteed. What has happened is that all the books which would normally make up the infamous “slush pile” at a traditional publishing house have found their way on-line. The result is a hodgepodge of books on everything under the sun, written at varying levels of ability.
It is the free ebook that I worry about the most as a threat to the writing industry. Whether intentionally or not, they may drive the more traditional publishing houses out of business. I could be wrong. I hope I am. But the problem is twofold: as the literary skills (dn’t u think so 2?) of the general population decline, the literary ability required to satisfy them will also decline. Combine this with an enormous influx of free ebooks, and the traditional book industry might have a serious problem. Why spend $12 on a traditional book, or $6 on a traditional book houses’ ebook, when one can get comparable entertainment from a free ebook? Taken together these factors may spell the death of the writing industry.
Perhaps I’m being paranoid. The writing industry has survived other technological upheavals in the past; perhaps it will survive this one as well. I hope so.