I’m not quite sure where my mood comes from but it can’t be because I’m in LA. What’s there not to like about this place? Pause. It’s probably tied into my reason for choosing a hotel in the Westwood section of town. My first LA area book event this trip was scheduled to take place February 9th a few blocks from here at The Mystery Bookstore on the edge of the UCLA campus. But the signing never happened because TMB closed forever on January 31, 2011. A victim of many things, no doubt, and my canceled appearance was but a trivial bit of collateral damage.
|Sign in the window of The Mystery Bookstore, Los Angeles|
So much history gone in an instant. I wonder what will happen to that massive “arrest ledger” each author appearing for the first time was asked to sign? I’ll never forget how I felt looking at the names of all the legends who’d signed before me, and that shiver down my spine at the honor of being linked to them in even such a small way. It saddens me to think of all those who will never have that chance.
|Google's Wael Ghonim|
Each conversation took off from the same place: the power of the Internet as witnessed in world headlines. A Google executive using Facebook is heralded as champion of Egypt’s (successful) revolutionary efforts and a content provider gains editorial control over its acquiring AOL delivery system (plus hundreds of millions of dollars).
|AOL's Tom Armstrong and Arianna Huffington|
There is feverish, worldwide competition for bringing traffic-generating content to the Internet. And amid that frenzy digital pirates flourish. Just look at what’s happened to the record and movie industries, they’re awash in pirates. And publishing has boarders threatening on all sides. There is a horrible inescapable truth out there: the market will be served. Accept that and prepare, or perish.
For those who say publishing is different, because book buyers are different from lovers of music or films, go light a candle along with your prayer. It was readers of books who put an iconic bookstore out of business because what TMB offered could be found cheaper elsewhere. What then makes one think a book buyer would not pay less still to a pirate?
Yes, I see the shrugging at all this old news. But if what I’ve heard has any merit, far more daunting problems lie ahead. The U.S., a relatively observant protector of intellectual property rights, is approximately five years ahead of the rest of the world on methods of exploiting the World Wide Web. Imagine what will happen when that knowledge spreads unchecked across the globe to places far less respectful of such IP rights, and the masses are tempted with near freebies in the privacy of their own downloads?
Let’s hope that what I’ve heard is wrong, or that the publishing industry is preparing for the challenge. If not…
|Sunshine...if you can't recognize it at the moment.|
Next week I’ll talk about fun things, I promise.
Jeff — Saturday