Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ubiquity and creativity

This started out as a response to Sarah Hoyt at Classical Values; but then evolved. RTWT @ Classical Values :: The Tight Rope Over The Lion Pit - and also the previous post Classical Values:: What Baen Does Right
Jim Baen wrote (and I read) a novel where e-publishing was "invented" and the major publishing houses were willing to kill to prevent it from spreading. (I no longer have it, and unfortunately, given the existence of Baen Books and their ebooks division it's a rough thing to search for). So he had envisioned a world where the publishing business was in doubt. And, given the opportunity, embraced that world. I wish some other publishers (including the idiots in Renton who pulled the e-books of the D&D rules off the market) would get with the program – it’s unwise to abandon your market to pirates, because then the “legitimate” buyers will have to go to the pirates, and you can’t stop that signal
I believe that there will always be a "market" for curators, and to a lesser extent financial middlemen. Google, Amazon, Apple, and Baen have all, essentially, embraced their roles as middlemen and curators (to a greater or lesser extent) and chosen to take their profits small and in volume (yes, even Apple). All of them have active and thriving “communities” as well. Another pair of companies I do business with that have the same philosophy are Valve and Stardock. They all leverage those communities to “curate” their products. There’s a Demotivational poster with the text of “Meetings: none of us are as dumb as all of us”. This is demonstrably true of mobs. The inverse applies, as well – any economist will tell you that (both ways).
What does that mean for the future of content creation? Cheap content, eventually; with a few more self-made producers of content, many more “part-time” producers, and a paper-thin intermediary/curatorial layer between the producers and the consumers, with a lot of holes where producers and consumers can transact without a middlemen. How long? How long will it take the “heavy” middlemen to convert or die…

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