Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Ok, now I understand the fascination the mainstream news outlets have had with pirates over the last several months. It's all just subliminal conditioning to prejudice us against...digital pirates! Aha! Pirates = Bad. We must wash away that pop-culturally conditioned connection between pirates and Johnny Depp, and think of these swashbuckling rogues -- of the high seas and torrenting kind -- as bonafide villains.
According to the New York Times, the rise of e-readers has intensified the pirating of best-selling novels, royally cheesing some authors like Ursula K. Le Guin off. Other writers like Stephen King comfort themselves by believing that the unauthorized downloaders of his work "... live in basements floored with carpeting remnants, living on Funions and discount beer."
I have no doubt in my mind that had I the talent and/or following of a Le Guin or King, I most likely would be by degrees annoyed and/or angry too. However, the rise in cheap or free online reading material -- and the ease by which a prospective author can not only deliver their work to the masses but promote it as well -- make this system perfect for a person like me who is just starting out and wants to experiment. Digital books are to me is what radical newsletters bummed off of somebody's mimeograph machine at work must have been 40 years ago. I could succeed or fail, but at the very minimum I have gotten my rocks off and put the damn thing out there.
Which finally brings us to both Harlan Ellison and Cory Doctorow, who are also interviewed in the NYT article.
Ellison on people who steal his work and put it online:
"If you put your hand in my pocket, you’ll drag back six inches of bloody stump..."
"I really feel like my problem isn’t piracy...It’s obscurity.”
Who is right? Here we have two men who have sprung from two entirely different systems of media acquisition and publication. As Doctorow himself admits, he probably needs a little more "push" publicity-wise by making his work available to the masses for free (with the option to buy the hardcopy) than someone like Ellison does. Ellison is still operating from the old framework, which worked great for him all these many years and has made him world-famous. On the other side of the coin, there are probably a number of younger readers who have heard of Doctorow but not Ellison. Whose work and rep will stand the test of time?
Sign up for my free serialized eBook mailing list and receive a sense of satisfaction knowing that you are on the cutting edge of the digital age and sticking it to "The Man."
EDIT: uh, the eBook mailing list is for my work, not that of Le Guin, King, and Ellison; though that would be pretty funny if I did offer illegal Kindle chapters of like J.K. Rowling stuff for free out in the open like that. "Valerie's Illegal eBook Club."
EDIT: No, of course not, that wouldn't be funny at all.
Posted by Verge at 9:57 AM