Awoke at 6:00 a.m. to the construction of two homes next door. The project’s entered a new phase: Use of an apparatus that sounds like a 30-ton hydraulic rattlesnake! That, and the fact I couldn’t figure out how to use the “Movie” function on a Canon digital camera last night when I wanted to start filming short video clips for YouTube, plus a bit of a coffee headache, has me grouch-grouch-grouching just a little. So, please keep that in mind, as you delve into the following:
I think humanity has entered a new Dark Ages symbolized by a never-before-seen flood of written and visual material! Noah’s Flood was a trickle compared to this new flood in which a person can surf through limitless items of data, including all the entertainment he or she can handle, all the images and vids (YouTube, Google Image search, etc.), they could possibly ever see in a thousand years of looking! People tend to think “It’s Free!” But in my opinion, that is one of the ultimate concerns… that it is hard for anyone (except perhaps folks using MLM, adwords, Google ads, affiliate marketing, and the like!) to mine any gold from them thar hills.
Why do I interpret this flood of written and visual material as heralding a new “Dark Age?” For one thing, the fact that two million people are blogging right now makes any one blog of no importance whatever. The fact that twelve million Americans are writing novels or memoirs right now makes any given novel or memoir of no interest whatever. How do I know this? Because last year I wrote and/or published 15 books… not e-books, but real paperbacks and hardcovers on the lulu.com database, whereupon real books with real color covers will be delivered upon order. It doesn’t get much better than that! Well, yes, it would. It would get MUCH better than that — if any of these book-writing and book-publishing projects had been PROFITABLE, and they haven’t been, not so far! Same with my short stories. Imagine how YOU would feel if you wrote three or four dozen short stories and then discovered there was literally NO obvious demand by anyone to read any of these stories? It makes me wonder — where did I go wrong? Should I have been writing freaky porn stories instead? SHOULDN’T hard-working, prolific authors who have learned their craft over dozens of years, be able to make SOME money? I guess not! Maybe 100 authors out of 10 million can support themselves on their published books. It’s just about that bad!
A parallel situation exists –with a twist– in the used & rare book trade. When individuals owned little bookstores of 5,000 or 10,000 or 20,000 books in various communities, it was fun to drive into a new town and visit the little book stores and see some never-seen-before items. The seller put whatever price they wanted to on these, and make an occasional sale. Since the mid-1990’s or so, things have drastically changed! There are databases now of more than 100,000,000 books representing 15,000 individual sellers and bookstores. People who used to sell their books at wholesale to bookstores now sell try to sell them closer to retail on-line. Buyers look on Amazon or ABE Books (now owned by the same company anyway), or Alibris, and the books are listed starting with the least expensive. Where they might find one copy in a used book store in a small town somewhere, now they are accosted by 38 copies or maybe 258 copies, from all around the world. Competition has driven prices down, so the astute buyer find a bunch of dealers around the country (or the world!) who are selling the book they want for $1.00 + shipping. Yes, in order to move a bunch of books they took-in by the truckload, wholesalers DO sell average titles for $1.00 & up. They actually make their profit on the shipping, in which they find ways to ship cheaper and save money for themselves doing so. No matter… what’s wrong here, is that no particular bookstore means anything special anymore. Each one is competing against every other seller in the whole world on a book-by-book basis. Get the picture?
The book of WRITING and publishing, distributing books, is similar to that of the world of READING and procuring books that I’ve just outlined. There are SO MANY manuscripts, books, e-books, etc., now, that it boggles the mind. I am trying to sell four dozen short stories I’ve written, and wisely choosing the e-book medium to eliminate shipping costs and give me an endless inventory… press a button, send a book! (See how nice that sounds?) I also have written a number of full-scale books on various subjects over the past years. A lifetime of reading has yielded a lifetime of writing! (See my two pages on this site — Books by Ed Augusts and “EdsList — Books”). But the competition is so fierce and the competition arrayed beside him, so huge, so daunting, that it makes a strong man feel like Atlas trying to hold-up the world on his shoulders… it may not be possible to hold up the world! It may not be POSSIBLE to win-out against 10 million competitors for attention in the world of books!
There is so much 100% “FREE” material on the Internet that any one’s individual efforts are of no significance. There is no dollar value to one’s books or stories because there are databases that have gleefully collected thousands, tens of thousands, of FREE stories and FREE books. I’m sure the Gutenberg Project was well-conceived in its day. Possibly Google’s idea of bringing all printed materials together in one place and giving them away to anyone who wants them was just as idealistic. This idea of “free” sounds wonderful at first. It still sounds wonderful the 2nd and 3rd time you hear it. But when you think about what it means… that people can surf all day and read everything everywhere for free… and never have to pay anything to retrieve any of this material… except repair bills when their computer crashes… ha ha, laughing not at you but at myself, since every year, it seems, a desktop or laptop crashes and often a huge database of good stuff gets wiped out… you suddenly start having visions of Rome being pillaged by the Goths!
The easy availability of so much “FREE” reading is another reason I don’t think the book ‘readers’ like Amazon’s Kindle are going to be hugely successful. Why pay $9.99 per book, and read the book on a device, when you can get all the reading you’d ever want—fiction, non-fiction, blogs, memoirs, “how-to’s”, etc., —just by surfing, Googling-up subjects and links — or looking-up more and more interesting-looking people on Twitter or MySpace or FaceBook all day and night?
The ultimate consequence of all this FREE data, is, lack of financial compensation for today’s new authors who cannot find a toe-hold in the marketplace. Besides. If there are 100,000,000 books out there right now, just on ABE Books, what possible difference can any one book title, any one author, make? Let’s face it, looking at things realistically, it appears that books are so common, they’re nothing but trash. Verbage = Garbage! I don’t want that. I honor and treasure books. Books are my friends! I am PROUD to say I’m a prolific author. But right now, books are trash, and the Internet is the reason. —–e.a.