We are living in a golden age for television. That’s the opinion in this frightening article in today’s New York Times. Frightening for book lovers and writers. The article begins by looking at how chock-full of quality content television is these days. And then the article moves to all the forms of media that are being squeezed out.
Some of us have been beating this drum for a while now. Books don’t compete with books; they compete with everything else. And while traditional publishers worry about what self-publishers are doing, or while they worry about what e-books are doing to print books, or what Amazon is doing to bookstores, they are missing the real battle.
We in the publishing business are storytellers. Others are telling stories with video games, television, comic books, and film. People are sharing stories with one another on Facebook and in online forums. When we see books as being our competition, we fight amongst ourselves, and we all lose.
DRM doesn’t save a book; it kills it and sells something else. The producers of THE GAME OF THRONES credit piracy as being one of the driving forces behind their top-rated show. If we are going to worry about piracy, let’s worry that more video games are pirated than e-books. Let’s worry about whether people continue to read once they leave school and what we can do to fix that problem. When we price an e-book at $9.99, we don’t protect a hardback, we sell a DVD that costs just as much.
Relying on the people who will always read, no matter what, is a bad plan. It is possible to lose these readers, or at least to lose a good number of the books they’ll purchase in a year. This article from the Times is but one anecdote. Start looking, and you’ll see more.
How can we make reading the best form of storytelling it can be? How do we unleash our passion on the public? How do we simplify the discovery of good books, how they are purchased, shared, sold as used, discussed, reviewed? As a reader and a writer, I’m interested in the companies who are trying new things to expand the total pool of readership, not those who see this as a fight amongst ourselves. It is a golden age for some forms of media. I argue all the time that right now we are living in a golden age for books, the best time in history to be a reader and a writer, but let’s not get complacent. Let’s not lose sight of what we’re up against. Leaden times are ahead if we don’t strive to make reading awesome.