Fiction isn’t just going to disappear

If electronic publishing—and that includes the reality that it’s very easy to “pirate” electronic text—is a form of publishing that some authors and publishers have a hard time adapting to, then that’s just too damn bad for them. As my father liked to say whenever I’d whine about something as a boy, “things are tough all over.” If they can’t cut the mustard, then it’s just a fact that over time they will fade away.

A comment I left at Teleread prompted a contributor there to send me to an interesting article on the future of novels.  My first thought was, “that’s the biggest and most obnoxious tip jar I’ve ever seen on a website”.  That led me to think, “There’s no way the person who wrote this article has any concept of infinitely copyable digital content”.

But I was very wrong.  And the article comes from an author, someone who has experienced some of the changes in the world of publishing fiction, which puts him in a much more qualified position than many to speak about the industry.

He makes the point that some will be harmed by changes – the electronic revolution will mean that some won’t be able to make a living by writing any more.  That’s unfortunate – no one wants anyone to lose their livelihood.  Certainly when I say that you can’t charge for an ebook, I don’t mean that I think authors should work for nothing just so I don’t have to spend $9.99 at Amazon.

I do think that authors need to find new ways to make money, and it’s nice to see some authors agreeing with me.  People are thinking about new ways to publish fiction.  It’s not going to be the end of fiction, but it might be the beginning of the end of the way the publishing industry does business today.

Luckily, many authors will adapt, and many publishing companies will adapt, and people will still get to consume fiction.  But the way it gets paid for will probably be very different.  Not scary, but different.

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