Scott Adams: The Economic Value Of Content Is Going To Zero, But Maybe It's Okay

from the dilbert-calculations? dept

Regular readers may recall a few years ago that I got into a short debate with Dilbert creator Scott Adams, on the issue of copyright. I usually find Adams' musings on various subjects to be interesting and insightful, but I thought he was pretty confused when it came to copyright. It kicked off with Adams trying to create an analogy for infringement, while (thankfully!) first admitting that it was different than "stealing" a physical good, the best analogy he could come up with was that it was like someone wearing your underwear all day and then putting it back in your drawer at the end of the day (cleaned and in the same condition he took it). I found that analogy to be severely lacking, and felt he assumed certain rights for creators that don't actually exist -- including the right to certain revenue. Adams shot back, in a mocking tone, again insisting that there were real economic losses in cases where a content creator failed to live up to his or her own marketing plan. Once again, I disagreed. Since then, I hadn't noticed Adams tackling this subject again.

Reader Bluejay alerts us to the news that Adams is exploring the topic again, in a slightly tangential manner. In a blog post highlighting his "theory on content value," where it seems he's reached something like the "acceptance" stage of navigating this particular topic -- though, he's doing so somewhat grudgingly. He kicks it off by noting that unauthorized copies of music represent a huge percentage of the music that people listen to these days (something that I'm not really sure is true) and that as devices like the iPad become more popular, the same thing is likely to happen for books. He's not focused on the locked down nature of the iPad, or its book store, but the fact that it has a browser, and you can find all sorts of unauthorized digital copies of books with little trouble.

From there, he's convinced (accurately) that there's little that can be done to stop this:
Every kid understands that stealing is wrong. But ask the average ten-year old about copyright law and watch for the blank stare. Students are taught to freely download copyrighted content from the Internet for school reports, which I understand is legal in the context of education. And at the same time, every school kid is learning from friends that downloading music and movies from the Internet is common practice. Paying for content on the Internet is strictly a generational thing, and it will pass.

Those of you reading this blog are already savvy enough to find and download any content you want for free. But I'll bet the average 40-something user of the Internet still wouldn't know how to search the Internet for criminally free content. At some point, I assume, a Google search for any popular book title will return an illegal source at the top of the page. When that happens, Amazon.com will primarily be selling electronics, household products, and clothes.
That sounds about right. But what does it mean? Well, Adams has a sort of good news/bad news conclusion that I partly agree with:
I predict that the profession known as "author" will be retired to history in my lifetime, like blacksmith and cowboy. In the future, everyone will be a writer, and some will be better and more prolific than others. But no one will pay to read what anyone else creates. People might someday write entire books - and good ones - for the benefit of their own publicity, such as to promote themselves as consultants, lecturers, or the like. But no one born today is the next multi-best-selling author. That job won't exist.

As an author, my knee-jerk reaction is to assume that the media content of the future will suck because there will be no true professionals producing it. But I think suckiness is solved by better search capabilities. Somewhere out in the big old world are artists who are more talented than we can imagine, and willing to create content for free, for a variety of reasons. And so, as our ability to search for media content improves, the economic value of that content will approach zero.
I'm not sure that the job of "author" will go away. "Best selling author" is a description of a type of author, so, sure, that might go away if people aren't selling books, but I'm not at all convinced the profession of "author" goes away. It's just that the nature of the job changes. I also think his final statement is just wrong. The economic value of that content doesn't go to zero. The price of that content may approach zero, but as we've pointed out over and over again price and value are not the same thing. In fact, there may be tremendous economic value in that content -- it's just that the economic value is realized elsewhere, by making something else gain a higher price. Adams mentions that authors may write books to help promote themselves, and that's an example of how that economic value is realized elsewhere, in boosting the price people may pay for authors who are also consultants, lecturers or something else entirely.

That said, however, it is nice that Adams admits that, even if his gut reaction is not to like this, he realizes that better tools may actually make sure that the results aren't bad at all (and might even be better). Going back to his earlier posts on copyright and content sharing, he's realizing that what he once thought of as a "loss," might really just be a changing market. That's good to see.


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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 9:12am

    and then adams can go back to his meaningless life working in a cubicle because nobody is paying for his content anymore. oh wait, he got rich off of content, he no longer cares. got it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 9:15am


    At some point, I assume, a Google search for any popular book title will return an illegal source at the top of the page.


    This seems very unlikely, especially if DMCA-style takedowns remain possible. While it's probably already possible to find a pirated version of more or less any popular book, the top entries for a search for just the title are far more likely to be amazon.com, the publisher's and/or the author's site, reviews, etc.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 9:37am

      Re:

      DMCA takedowns are fairly useless in the world of decentralized networks. You spend more energy/effort in attempting to remove the content than it takes to simply move the content elsewhere. It is a cat/mouse game that the cat lost a decade ago and is still confused about how to catch one or two mice.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 9:39am

        Re: Re:

        And considering there are hundreds of millions of mice, well . . . .

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 11:58am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Yes, it's useless for keeping the illegal content off the internet, but that's not what we were talking about: keeping the pirated sources out of the #1 search result slot for the book title in question.

          Any particular link to the pirated content will have a difficult time making it to even the first few pages of search results for only the book title, and if one somehow does make it there, it's easily removed with a takedown request.

          I'm not at all convinced that people who aren't looking for pirated copies are likely to just stumble upon them in search results, now or in the future.

           

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            JEDIDIAH, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 1:18pm

            Big Content's biggest hobby: baseless assumptions.

            Assuming that Google doesn't get your search wrong by finding you something else that matches the book title, the most likely #1 result will be Amazon. Sponsored hits for Audible and B&N will likely to be presented too.

             

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      william (profile), Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 10:31am

      Re:

      uhh, Scotty probably haven't search much or uses the Internet much recently.

      illegal sources are already on the top 3 of most search for copyrighted stuff, if not the top.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 9:44am

    If Scott Adams would come and speak to my company, in order to sooth our corporate owies, I'd petition our HR department to bring him in. It's because I read his comic online everyday that I feel better about my problems at work. If he can express what we seem to go through so well, we can't be the only ones.

    Economic value = paid lecturer and entertainer. (Maybe suicide prevent-er, if Foxcon could get him to speak to their employees.)

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 10:17am

      Re:

      here is the funny part. without the comic that is widely distributed and paid for by newspapers (buggy whip makers) he wouldnt be known at all. he wouldnt have developed his skills, and wouldnt be a very good entertainer.

      as a side note, mr adams currently suffers from a speech disorder (related to stress, perhaps) that makes it impossible for him to give presentations. it is odd to think that what he could theoretically sell in the future (appearances, speeches) are impossible because of a physical condition. it would seem that this highlights the stupidity of the whole processes, where a great cartoonist could end up living on the street because nobody will pay for him to do what he does best, they will only pay for what he cannot do. amazing.

       

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        Nastybutler77 (profile), Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 10:33am

        Re: Re:

        "it would seem that this highlights the stupidity of the whole processes, where a great cartoonist could end up living on the street because nobody will pay for him to do what he does best..."

        Wow. You really don't think before you post do you? Let's say you're right and nobody will pay for his cartoons, which is false but let's say it's true for arguments sake. Let's also say he can't give speeches or do public apperances. What's left? Oh I don't know, let's think. How may Dilbert stuffed toys have been sold? Dilbert novelty ties? Dilbert calanders? Dilbert t-shirts (your favorite)? There's plenty of other ways to profit from that content.

        Stop spreading your doom and gloom BS, when it's obvious to anyone with half a brain you don't know what you're talking about.

         

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          Nick Coghlan (profile), Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 2:53pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          It's especially funny since dilbert.com doesn't have restricted archives any more - it used to be limited to the past 30 days of strips, but now you can get the whole lot going back for years, absolutely free, directly from the author himself.

          Of course, as others have pointed out, he still makes a mint selling Dilbert branded real world goods (I still have a Dilbert coffee mug some friends bought me years ago for my 21st birthday).

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 5:32pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          no, you arent thinking it through. what is dilbert? how would you know if dilbert wasnt widely distributed through newspaper daily? yes, he can ride the past success of the old buggy whip distribution to old age, but what about the next cartoonist who cant get paid? will you know who their characters are? will you pay for their t-shirts, mugs, and other crap to support them? what you are suggesting is exactly the point made in the past about music artists who got rich and famous off the old systems and now piss on them. without those systems, they couldnt afford the champagne to make the piss to start with.

           

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            athe, Jun 4th, 2010 @ 12:15am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            There's a term for that... It's called "progress". Guess they'll just have to find some other way to get themselves known.

             

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            Nastybutler77 (profile), Jun 4th, 2010 @ 11:25am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I guess you must be right, you make such reasoned arguments and your logic is infallible. You're right; without newspapers no one would have ever heard of Dilbert or any other cartoon caracter. And you're right; the internet can't introduce anyone to any new artist (at least not without paying first). You must know better than everyone else that Penny Arcade doesn't make any money and 800K views a month is a pathetic attempt to match where Dilbert is now after 20+ years of existance.

            You present such great examples and the evidence you point to cannot be denied. I submit to your superior logic.





            /sarc

             

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            Richard (profile), Jun 5th, 2010 @ 4:42pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            but what about the next cartoonist who cant get paid? will you know who their characters are? will you pay for their t-shirts, mugs, and other crap to support them?

            xkcd

            http://store.xkcd.com/

            I think that answers your question.

             

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        Modplan (profile), Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 10:33am

        Re: Re:

        Obviously no one would employ him to continue creating new comics to drive value to their paper, website or otherwise. No one would pay for Dilbert merchandise either.

        Please, I beg of you, go back to bootstrapping and bittorrent being inefficient. Throw in a use of "The Masnick", it would really brighten up the day.

         

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        DocMenach (profile), Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 10:40am

        Re: Re:

        Lower Case Idiot: I refer you to Dilbert.com. Anyone can go and look at every single Dilbert comic ever made, absolutely free. Yet Adams still makes money selling books, T-shirts, Mugs, keychains etc. He also makes money from the ads on the website too.

        You see that there, lower case idiot? The content is given away for free, yet he still makes money. There are quite few other comics who use this same model.

        Ever hear of a webcomic called Penny Arcade? They were never distributed by newspapers, yet they make a very significant income, giving content away for free, and have been doing so for the last 12 years.

         

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          chris (profile), Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 1:13pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Ever hear of a webcomic called Penny Arcade? They were never distributed by newspapers, yet they make a very significant income, giving content away for free, and have been doing so for the last 12 years.

          PA doesn't have loyal fans, they have a standing army. there are literally millions of people around the world that would do pretty much whatever tycho and gabe told them to do.

          i would wager that any content creator with 1% of PA's following could live quite well, assuming they made something that fired people up the way PA does.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 7:07pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          as per usual for a masnick fan, you appear to be unable to understand the idea of cause and effect. why do you go to dilbert.com? because you know of dilbert. how do you know of dilbert? newspapers. without being famous through some other old style distribution method, he would be no more known than thousands of other nobodies with a pen and paper and not much else.

          as for penny arcade, sorry, but nearly 20 years on the net and i have never heard of them. they must be amazingly popular and a significant part of pop culture. quantcast suggests they reach about 870,000 americans a month, i think dilbert does that in a single day in the newspapers. hmmm. makes you wonder, doesnt it?

           

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            RT Cunningham (profile), Jun 4th, 2010 @ 9:04am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            And as per usual, you don't have a clue what you're talking about. You're assuming Dilbert is read by everyone who gets it with their newspaper. The web comic is targeted to people who read/view it. The newspaper comic is targeted at everyone and only a fraction will read/view it.

            The numbers don't correlate and never will.

             

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          Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 7:38pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Ever hear of a webcomic called Penny Arcade? They were never distributed by newspapers, yet they make a very significant income, giving content away for free, and have been doing so for the last 12 years.

          Penny Arcade is a great example.

          XKCD is another.

          There's actually a growing number of super popular web-only comics that show how it's done.

           

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        Comboman (profile), Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 12:06pm

        Re: Re:

        as a side note, mr adams currently suffers from a speech disorder (related to stress, perhaps) that makes it impossible for him to give presentations.

        Steven Hawking gave public presentations for many years with a disorder that is far more debilitating than Adams'. Basically, they rolled him on stage and he pressed the 'play' button on his computer; but the audience cheered at the end anyway. People pay good money to see over-the-hill musicians fumble through their decades-old hit songs. The CD sounds much better than the live concert and I get far more out of reading Hawking's book than hearing his 'speech', but that doesn't matter. It's not about the performance, it's about the experience. Performance can be copied, experience can't

         

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    John Doe, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 9:49am

    5 stages of grief

    Sounds like he is going through the 5 stages of grief and has finally gotten past denial.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 9:52am

    For years there have been author-destroying institutions in nearly every city in America. They allow anyone to go in and read any copyright-protected book they want without ANY compensation going to the author. Hundreds, if not thousands of people will read the book, and all the author gets is the pittance they receive for the inital sale of the book to the institution. Not only that, they often set arbitrary dates and if you don't finish by then, you have to pay them. Does any of that money go back to the author? Of course not! They will often make more money on the book than the author himself does!

    And that's not the worse part. Very often these places are run or supported by socialist-governmental programs. That's right, taxpayer money is being used to rob authors of their god-given right of compensation. And they have the nerve to brag about how many people they get to steal these works!

    They say reading is fundamental. These fundamentalist are sending us into a world where everyone has access to books regardless of whether they have money to pay, and without compensation, no one will ever write anything down. We'll be back in the dark ages where all communication is done orally, which is exactly what these fundamentalist want. Without a written record, they'll be able to change history to their own liking. It'll be 1984 meets Timecop (which was made in and takes place in 1994, coincidence?).

     

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      Peet McKimmie (profile), Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 10:38am

      Re:

      For years there have been author-destroying institutions in nearly every city in America. They allow anyone to go in and read any copyright-protected book they want without ANY compensation going to the author. Hundreds, if not thousands of people will read the book, and all the author gets is the pittance they receive for the inital sale of the book to the institution.


      If you mean "Libraries", authors do get paid for books borrowed. Here's the UK scheme, but the US has a similar one*: http://www.plr.uk.com/mediaCentre/publications/pdfPublications/plrInTheUk.pdf

      (*I just can't remember the name of the US scheme to Google for it...)

       

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    weneedhelp (profile), Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 9:56am

    Tired of the sterotype

    "But I'll bet the average 40-something user of the Internet still wouldn't know how to search the Internet for criminally free content."

    Is he f'in kidding? I am 41, and yes I know where to get legal(insert product here)on the internet. If it is overpriced, F you, I download it for free. If it is truly great, or I really enjoy it, I will buy it. If it is another POS, then screw you, Im glad I didnt pay for it.

    "media content of the future will suck because there will be no true professionals producing it"
    True professionals? By whose standards? Why does everyone ASSume good things can only be done by "professionals"?
    I believe, you will see greater works being produced because the internet makes it easier, and more are exposed to good stuff, and will learn what is good & bad, then try to be better.

    "At some point, I assume, a Google search for any"
    There is the problem ASS U ME.

    "Somewhere out in the big old world are artists who are more talented than we can imagine"
    Yeah, and under the old way, they never get exposure. With the internet, they have more of a chance of being discovered by the masses.

    "And so, as our ability to search for media content improves, the economic value of that content will approach zero."
    I dont know where the logic for this comes in.

    Dilbert sucks anyway.

     

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      ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 10:04am

      Re: Tired of the sterotype

      "He kicks it off by noting that unauthorized copies of music represent a huge percentage of the music that people listen to these days."

      Actually, the bulk of my listening is from people who freely put it on the web.

      As is the case, oddly, with my webcomic viewing.

      What have we learned?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 10:52am

      Re: Tired of the sterotype

      ....i love taking isolated quotes out of context :-D

       

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      not an ac to lazy to register, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 3:30pm

      Re: Tired of the sterotype

      "But I'll bet the average 40-something user of the Internet still wouldn't know how to search the Internet for criminally free content."

      I'm 58, I've had a computer since 1983. I think that the whole "older people don't understand computers" should be over by now.

      I spent most of my working as a tool&die maker, but earned a degree in information systems in 2008. Working as the IT person for a regional school district, I have found that age has very little to do with computer literacy.

      As for downloading, I will gladly pay for the convenience of a quick, safe place to get what I want. If that is not available - aaargh, ahoy matey.

      Scott

       

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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 10:01am

    Discontented with 'content'

    Content is something you fill a container with - it is a derogatory term for intellectual work protected by copyright (so copies can be sold at monopoly prices).

    The intellectual work remains valuable, and so Scott can expect to continue being paid for it (given people want him to carrying producing such good work).

    What isn't valuable are copies - irrespective of an ineffective 18th century privilege that would have it otherwise.

    So, while copies aren't worth much at all, intellectual work is worth as much as it's always been.

    Scott must look forward to a future in which he can't sell digital copies of his cartoons, but it will still at least be one in which his fans will pay him to carry on producing and publishing cartoons.

    The thing to grok is that the copy is not the work.

    My dog can make copies by pressing a button on the photocopier, but he can't draw cartoons. I won't pay him to make copies because I can get a computer to produce billions even more easily than he can (and for no reward whatsoever), but I would pay him a shed load of dog biscuits if he produced some amusing cartoons.

    Why is this so difficult to understand?

     

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    TheStupidOne, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 10:02am

    "But no one born today is the next multi-best-selling author. That job won't exist."

    I strongly disagree with this. I have a fair number of "pirated" books, most of which I've bought once (or sometimes 2 or 3 times) before. Maybe in the future there will be fewer best selling authors, but people will continue to pay for the privilege of reading books. The only thing that will change is availability. The future of books is going to be 100% availability, so if you don't like the price you can get it for free. The price of books has always (in my lifetime at least) been a matching of price vs willingness to pay. If it costs too much to buy a new book, then you didn't read it or your got it from the library. In the future the inconvenience of going to the library will be taken out of the equation and it will be pay for the book or download it for free.

    At $50 a book very few people will be willing to buy and will instead download. At $15 many more people will be willing to buy, but many will still download. At $1 the majority of people interested in reading will be willing to pay (assuming it is very easy to pay) but there will still be many people who would rather download

     

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    bigpicture, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 10:04am

    Author Occupation going away?

    When the printing press (print copy reproduction) technology came on line the occupation of "Scribe" went away. (The cost of wages "for scribes" versus the cost of mechanization "for printing press", and the same happened to "farm hand occupations" because of mechanization over the last century.)

    So now we have ubiquitous and inexpensive means for producing copies of all sorts of media, and there is NOT going to be any occupations or business models go away???

    Example: The only reason that Recording Companies existed at all was because the recording technology was initially so expensive, away out of the reach of the average consumer.

     

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    J.E.C., Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 10:12am

    Authors...

    As an author myself waiting for editting to be finished on my second book - I've also authored audio programs and iPhone applications - I'd like to chime in here.

    I don't agree with Adams.

    I suspect things will go the way it's already going for some content... where you pay for premium items and for the writer to keep writing.

    In the case of Dilbert, I would pay (donate button or whatever) to have him to continue to write, as I would with most of my own favorite writers. I would also pay to have hard copies of books that I enjoy, or well done audio versions of the same books.

    I think there will be a shift in the purpose of content. As he said, it will be done to promote other things, perhaps tangible content - ie. T-Shirts, mousepads, etc. or, as he pointed out, consulting, etc.

    I guess we'll see. In the meantime, I'll keep writing and keep publishing and keep creating content. If people like it and it's useful, they will buy it... if not, they won't.

    If they decide to download it for free, well... all the more reason for me to figure out how to leverage that.

    J.E.C.

    PS - There's no DRM on MY kindle book!

     

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    interval, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 10:15am

    I'm surprised Adams has the time to write/respond regarding these topics with all the crate stuffing he has to do shipping off all those Dilbert & Dogbert Tees, mugs, stuffies, posters... oh yeah, he probably hires people to do that for him. And the economy just keeps chugging along...

     

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    Jay (profile), Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 10:17am

    Hold it!

    Wait. There's a thing about being a best selling author. It's a standard. Nothing more. Quite frankly there will always be more successful authors as the Harry Potter or Twilight series has come to show us. Hell, more and more authors are around every year! But saying this mechanism will go away after XX amount of years is like saying there's no demand for a good story.

    I personally write. Granted, there's still a bit of writer's block but I make a story that entertains. My work may be written down on a computer. It may be on a napkin. Regardless, with the cost of print down so low, it's the perfect time for me to write a new book.

    I'm just glad it's not the 18th or 17th century when monarchs had copyrights on who could produce this information.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 10:31am

    A big value divide exists between books produced and distributed by traditional publishers, and those produced and marketed by online information marketers. While traditional publishers continue to fight Amazon to sell books for a couple dollars more, the information marketers get $1,000 - $2,000 - even $5,000 or more for their content packages, i.e. digital text, audios and videos, even though the actual information quantity and professionalism aren't that different from a printed book. The value difference is really based on the value of the need or desire being met by the problem-solving information products and the persuasive argument the marketer makes to educate the buyer on that value.
    Regardless of whether your readers see the same value in the information products as the people who buy them do, the fact remains that millions and millions of dollars continue to be earned with digital online content in contrast to Scott Adams' belief that content is going to be worth nothing.

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 10:45am

    Wow this guy actually gets it

    "Paying for content on the Internet is strictly a generational thing, and it will pass."

    That is slick, and I think my using it in the future is fair use. He is correct. All disruptive technologies start with the young and work themselves up the age brackets. The percentage of people infringing by year and age charts for Spain and South Korea are perfect examples this trend.

    "I predict that the profession known as "author" will be retired to history in my lifetime, ... In the future, everyone will be a writer, and some will be better and more prolific than others .... ... But no one born today is the next multi-best-selling author. That job won't exist."

    Talk about acceptance. I wish the labels would get this.


    Okay my favorite comment ...

    "Someone wrote a book discussing the social and economic impact of a futuristic Star Trek "replicator" technology.

    The contrary theory suggests that as we have more and more automated "build-it-yourself technologies" physical objects will become less and less valuable and make intellectual property the only salable thing. With CD burners and DVD burners, the physical value of music and movies are nearly moot. As CNC technology becomes mainstream (we still have a ways to go, of course), more sophisticated objects will lose physical value and be replaced with "pattern value." You won't buy your kids an action figure... you'll download a pattern and have your computer carve it out of wood or plastic and paint it. "

    Techdirt should start covering this trend of home and custom manufacturing. Its the middle ground between information and sold objects from an intellectual perspective. Its the place in history where information actually does become intellectual "property".

     

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    Chris, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 11:36am

    Scott Sigler Best selling Author

    Scott Sigler (www.scottsigler.com) gives his books away for free. He also sells the VERY same books them on Amazon. People get to read and hear his books and then DECIDE to buy his books when they come out. On June 22nd check out where is book is on Amazon's best seller list. Then a week or two later watch the New York best seller list and see that very same book on it. His last book made the best seller list. He is in the middle of a multi book deal with Crown (big publisher).

    People see he puts out great content and want him to keep doing so. Everyone can listen for free but if you like it and want him to continue he asks that you buy his books when they come out. When he started out he had a day job. Now his day job is a full time author.

    People will pay for good content. The movie industry has had the best year EVER in terms of box office revenue (even with pirating). Music is selling like crazy on the web. Apple iTunes is making the music industry millions of dollars. The music industry is stuck on a broken business model and they are blaming pirates. Change your business model and the money will come.

    Yes people steal. They always have and they always will. But in the end most people will do the right thing in the end. "Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart."

     

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      Scott Sigler, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 10:34pm

      Re: Scott Sigler Best selling Author

      Thanks for the plug! Yep, free works just fine if you a) give away good free stuff, and b) have product to sell so that people who really like the free stuff can get a little bit more of you.

      It all comes down to quality, and hitting the right stride with an audience.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 11:43am

    I can have a poster of a sculpture, or I can own the sculpture itself, or a 3d replica of it.
    There is something about having a library in my house, of being able to pick up a book, admire the artwork, hold it.
    In the near future, there will always be people like me.
    If there is an author I like, or a series by an author, I like to own the books. I like to have them and show them. I like friends to come over and browse them. I like to go to their houses and do the same.
    There will always be benefits to buying (yes paying) for an actual book. It limits what I can have. I can have a thousands of e-books on my hard drive. If books were free, my library would be over loaded. But the fact that I have to pay for the object limits to me just what i love. I can pick up a book and loan it to someone. he knows that I must have enjoyed the book enough to buy it.
    When there is a hoarders mentality, and everyone has access to every book (or song or movie) in the world, it makes us a little less discriminate. It makes it harder to find the ones we love, harder to discern the special books from those we just collected.
    Some years ago, there was a study about why people preferred listening to radio rather than an mp3 player. There is the element of suprise for what the next song is. There was also music overload. When there are too many choices, people tend to not make a choice at all. So actually having unlimited access creates a situation where we limit ourselves even more.
    The PRICE of a new hard cover, that is a separate issue. I rarely buy new.
    The content, thats just part of the whole package.

     

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    Ven, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 11:45am

    Flawed analogies

    Both of the professions compared to authors are poor choices for the conclusions he draws.
    Blacksmiths aren't so much gone as transformed by economic pressures. Auto body shops, metal fabricators, a dozen other professions do essentially what a blacksmith would have once done. The change of title reflects the fact that specialization has been enable by a larger scale economy.
    The modern fantasy of the cowboy never existed in the first place. A cowboy was literally a person that drove cattle on an open range. Between the end of the open range and the arrival of rail-roads the need to drive cattle on a large scale mostly ended, but has not gone away entirely.

    I'd argue that the diversification and specialization that blacksmiths went through has already happened to authors. Some authors write novels, some comics, some screen plays, etc. The profession has specialized, but this is not a recent development so it hardly has bearing on the conversation.
    The cowboy was made irrelevant by the rail-road. The Internet is not making authors irrelevant, it is making them more relevant as their works can reach a wider audience. It is however making the distributor irrelevant.

     

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      Jay (profile), Jun 4th, 2010 @ 9:56pm

      Re: Small side note on cowboys

      Yes, I agree that cowboys aren't as numerous as they used to be. But you still have cattle herders and cattle rustlers in the Midwest. They still need large acres of farmland for the cattle. Mainly, like every other industry, you have the cowboys as part of a conglomerate to negotiate better deals for meat or whatever else they desire.

      Railroads may take part of their business, but railroads have yet to modernize. I know Obama wants to expand railroads, but the best he should do is let them falter and die on their own, and not prop them up with the subsidies that is killing them slowly (with our tax money. Thanks Nixon - Obama!)

      Source - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amtrak#Causes_of_decline_of_passenger_rail

       

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    Forge, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 3:08pm

    Writing ~= Poetry?

    Long ago, poets were sponsored by wealthy clients, and they wrote professionally. Now this "profession" has pretty much ended, yet poetry still gets written.

    Perhaps the profession of "author" will follow a similar route? Some write because they enjoy doing so, not simply as a route to a paycheck.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 4:57pm

      Re: Writing ~= Poetry?

      In the old days a patron was wealthy and singular but nowadays patrons can be poor and plural.

      I call them "fans".

       

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    Anome (profile), Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 5:20pm

    In a blog post highlighting his "theory on content value,"

    If it's anything like his other "theories", then I think I'll pass. Adams has very strange ideas about how the world works (and how it should work), which make it hard to take him seriously.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 9:45pm

    "Has the electronic revolution pushed us so far down the path of celebrity as a summum bonum that an author's works, be they one volume or 50, serve primarily as his or her ticket to the lecture platform, or, since even that is somewhat hierarchical and aloof, a series of one-on-one orgies of personal access? This is, as I read it, a pretty grisly scenario." - John Updike

     

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    Wayne Andersen (profile), Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 11:02pm

    All Authors care about is money?

    I read all of the time, I love books and stories and also spend quite a bit of time learning about the Authors of the works I enjoy.

    I would suggest that a very high percentage of Authors write because something within them drives them to it.
    I have read hundreds of descriptions from Authors about how they got started.

    Although some portion of them intended to get rich by doing so, most don't and those that do soon come to a realization that this was an extremely poor way to make any money at all, and in the face of that realization continued to write anyway. They just could not stop themselves.

    There will always be great content and great stories, people will continue to create all types of literary works even if as suggested in Mr. Adams ramblings that there will be no profit involved.

    And frankly there will always be people like me that will gladly pay for those works, but in my case only for content that does not have artificial limitations on when where and how I can enjoy it. Just like the paper back book I just set down.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2010 @ 12:11am

    First off, I think Adams misjudges the typical internet user. Not everyone downloading content, whether infringing or non-infringing, are kids who've grown up believing content should be free. There are plenty of 40-something people who know where and how to find such content as well.

    Secondly, the professions of blacksmith and cowboy, while perhaps not as prolific as they once were, still exist, and people still find ways to make money from them. So to shall the author. There will always be those who desire the printed book, and there will always be those willing to pay a premium for the quality of certain people's writing.

    In fact, it seems quite reasonable that, like musicians, the number of authors making a reasonable living is likely to increase. For, just as with the music industry, what is dying is not the content creator, but the middleman, the huge convoluted network that siphons a large portion of the creators income.

    As production/distribution costs falls, and technology make promotion quicker, easier and more cost effective, it stands to reason by reducing middleman costs, it is possible, even expected, that the price of a book (or CD for that matter) can actually drop, while still maintaining a constant (or likely even an increased) portion of the financial pie.

    The biggest myth, however, is the continual claims that people just want stuff for free. If that were true, then plenty of people would have very healthy bank accounts, since nobody would spend any money on luxuries or entertainment. The truth is: people do spend money, lots and lots of money, on luxuries and entertainment. It's just that that money never gets fairly or equitable distributed.

     

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      Richard (profile), Jun 5th, 2010 @ 1:14pm

      Re:

      he biggest myth, however, is the continual claims that people just want stuff for free. If that were true, then plenty of people would have very healthy bank accounts, since nobody would spend any money on luxuries or entertainment.

      People want for free the things that are free but are prepared to pay for the things that aren't. People pay happily to vote for their favourite acts in reality shows - even though they get nothing in return. They correctly understand that they are funding future work.

      People fund projects on kickstarter - for no return other than "making it happen" (OK there are sometimes some Mike style RTBs in there).

      Truth is that the future is all about trust between creators and consumers - plus some blurring of the lines between the two.

       

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    Jupiter (profile), Jun 4th, 2010 @ 1:17pm

    It surprises me that authors do finance themselves through product placements. I don't mean full page ads between chapters - although I wouldn't even have a problem with that - but getting paid to have characters in the books use certain products, drive certain cars, eat at certain restaurants. It works for television and movies, and it could all be done at the author's discretion, and it could even make the story more realistic. Then the book could be offered for free just like broadcast television.

    I'm not saying it's a good idea, I'm just surprised it's not done. Maybe it is and I don't know about it.

     

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