Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pulp Memories

Bookstores are overrun with stock. Much like the housing industry. Lot of supply and little demand. At least for the pulpy things on the shelves. The digital revolution swept through music and left us with the IPOD and ninety nine cent songs and a lot of CD's that resemble the eight tracks of old. Shoot a song into the IPOD and move on. What are those stores with the guitars on the signs and what are they selling? CD's have crashed in sales and the industry is still adjusting to the modality of the listener who picks one song at a time. The pendulum swung from the artist and record company dumping songs no one wanted with a couple of hits to the consumer who samples many and buys few. Now it is the publishing industries turn. But I like books! Doesn't matter. Economics rule. The fact is people are going to go with what is accessible, convenient and cheap. I just received a letter from one of my publishers asking for the electronic rights of my early novels. Seems they forgot to buy those when I published my first and second novel. Opps. Now they know what the public is finding out: books are toast. They will still be around the way CDs are still around, but people will buy them less and less. It is not a war against the book persay, but a war against the manufacturing ethos of the twentieth century. Make it and they will come. Mass produce it and they will come. Guess what? They aren't coming anymore. Not for cars, houses, CD's, and now books. Cyber empowerment has thrown the brick and mortar economy into the dust in more ways than one. One could even make an argument that derivatives and mortgage backs would never have been possible without the cyber-distance between buyer and seller. No matter, the very elements that made my publisher send me a letter, collecting digital rights on a ten year old book are the same elements that will wipe out the way people read. If capitalism is anything it is unfeeling. It morphs to the most economical model without a glance backward. Who cares if people want to read with a paper binding...economics dictates a downloadable product that can hold thousands of books for half the price. Tissy is the word for the publishing industry right now. Authors now have a chance to reclaim their books and sell the electronic version themselves. The days of the arbiters of literary taste have been bled down to the Lowest Common Denominator for good or bad. If people like it then it will sell regardless what the New York Times or other cannons of literary knowledge decree. Democracy demands an accounting by the individual and it keeps doing that nasty thing of morphing into the next evolution. Me, I now own the digital rights to all of my books. I'd say I own the future.

Books by William Hazelgrove