give away the content and sell the thing 01.29.2007, 2:45 PM
posted by sebastian mary
So I was tickled when Paul Miller pointed me to a piece Chris Anderson blogged yesterday about the same thing. Increasingly, musicians are giving their music away for free in order to drive gig attendance - and it's driving music reproduction companies crazy. And yet, what can they do? "The one thing that you can't digitize and distribute with full fidelity is a live show".
A minor synchronicity; but then I stop by here and find Gary Frost and bowerbird vigorously debating the likeliness of the digitisation of everything, and of the death of 'the original' as even a concept, in the context of Ben's piece about the National Archives sellout. And then I remember that, the day before, someone sent me a spoof web page telling me to get a First Life. And I start to wonder if there's some kind of post-digital backlash taking shape.
OK, Anderson is talking about music; it's hard to speculate about how the manifest 'authentic' appeal of a time-bound, ephemeral 'gig' experience translates literally to the field of physical books without falling back into diaphanous stuff about tactility and marginalia and so on. But, in the light of people's manifest willingness to pay ridiculous sums to see the 'real' Madonna in real time and space, is it really feasible to talk, as bowerbird does, about the coming digitisation of everything?
As far as I can see, as more digitisation progresses, authenticity is becoming big business. I think it's worth exploring the possibilities of a split between 'book' as pure content, and book as 'authentic' object. In particular, I think it's worth exploring the possible economics of this: the difference in approach, genesis, theory, self-justification, style and paycheque of content created for digital reproduction, and text created for tangible books. And finally, I think whoever manages to sus both has probably got it made.
Gary Frost on January 29, 2007 4:11 PM:
One of the dumbfounding attributes of the print book is that it is as machine readable as it is eye readable. The paper book is actually an exemplar of a cross platform XML Extreme format. You could even say that the paper book is post-digital but actually it is a precursor of the post-digital conveyance of conceptual works. This is because its trans-platform capacity originated in Antiquity when the book was integrated into mostly illiterate societies. The display gesture used to fan the book outward in processionals is the same face-outward gesture used for image capture. Ricky Jay has some good research on this concerning the "blow book".
Gary Frost on January 30, 2007 7:46 AM:
"And I start to wonder if there's some kind of post-digital backlash taking shape."
In my view such reconsideration is not a "backlash" but a realization that the "analog/digital divide" is a fiction promoted by advocates of screen based reading simply because such reading is associated with digital delivery. The unverse is not divided, neither is technology and certainly not the course of living in technolgy.
The materiality of the book is the displaced embodiment of the person. Keyword here is materiality. Many non-material projections of person occur in life, but the advocates of screen reading should be careful not to confine themselves.
One futurist agenda is the projection of the tangible book (legible, haptic and persistent) digitally produced.
Gary Frost on January 31, 2007 7:01 AM:
As a regressive print advocate I enjoy the many fallacies I encounter here on this blog about new reading, new writing and new publishing. I actually have a list of ten of these excellent fallacies, all of them too simple to be true. Here are five of them.
1. There is an analog/digital divide in the technologies of information transmission. (If there is any divide at all it is between print and screen based reading.)
2. There is something distinctive about being "born digital". (Almost all information is born digital. The various ways that it matures are more important.)
3. We are experiencing a one-way transition from paper to screen. (Its actually a two-way, not a one-way street.)
4. Screen based books can be equivalent to print books. (This assumption overlooks legibility, haptic and persistence attributes not achieved in screen reading.)
5. The only history is the future. (Actually every functionality of the book awaits rediscovery.)
Troped on January 31, 2007 10:49 AM:
I've been writing an online fiction blog (Troped) for a while now and even though I have a decent number of readers, I was really hesitant to integrate Google Adwords. A number of friends were urging me to do so if only to support what they see as a worthy endeavor. But ultimately advertising just distracts from the writing and I can't have that.
So the question remains, is there any way to support this fiction project monetarily (even if it's only to cover the cost of the server) without compromising the art? Similar to what you're saying here, I realized that the characters in the blog are often dealing with things that could be brought into reality. For instance, I came up with a funny idea for a t-shirt, had a character wear it in the story, and created the t-shirt over at cafepress.
It neatly sidesteps any problems I would have with endorsing other people's products. It (amusingly, I think) blurs the line between fiction and nonfiction because objects in the story are becoming real and entering the world (and maybe even then driving more readers to the site?) And it accomplishes something unique to the medium. You could maybe accomplish the same thing with a book or a magazine, but not with the same immediacy anyway.
All just a long-winded way of saying that I totally agree with you!