Whenever futurists or commentators talk about the future of books and the publishing industry they tend to focus on publishers, and how their industry is changing. Naturally, I’m more interested in writers and how the landscape is being changed around and by them.
There always seems to be a bullish optimism about future opportunities for writers, especially those who can adapt the way they think and act about storytelling. I share this optimism, but I’ve yet to see any tangible, viable suggestions for how such storytellers will be able to support themselves financially via the marketplace. I’m confident business models will emerge – they always do – but I’m impatient and I don’t have anything other than Yoda-like assurances to offer my members when they ask me how authors are going to get paid in the future.
Patrick Tucker doesn’t provide the answer in his article The 21st Century Writer. Nevertheless, his analysis and historical perspective is incisive and explains why authors should be engaged and proactive.
For people who make their living selling words to readers—and indeed for readers themselves—these are times of upheaval. The information technology revolution has led to an explosion in textual content. More people are engaging in more conversations, sharing more opinions, learning more, and learning faster than anyone could have imagined just a few decades ago. The site Blogherald.com counted more than 100 million blogs as of October 2005. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 93% of U.S. teens aged 12–17 used the Internet in 2006; among them, 64% have created content, up from 57% in 2004. We’ve entered an era where the acts of thinking, writing, and to a certain extent publishing are indistinguishable, and where charging money for editorial content is becoming an ever trickier proposition.
This is the best article I’ve read so far this year. Hands down.