Is this a sustainable business model? While staying at a Wyndhams motel, I noticed that I could receive .75c credit on my stay if I opted to decline a morning copy of "USA Today". That was a shock. I've always accepted that my "complimentary" morning newspaper is part of the package.
I don't subscribe to a newspaper. My mother does. I don't. Initially, I did not appreciate the oxymoron of paying for the "Free Press" and I wasn't offered "The Telegraph" or "The FT". Now, I'm accustomed to getting my news from AOL and Google.
Ultimately, I suppose that I pay Comcast for it, since I pay Comcast for my internet connection... just as I paid the Wyndham motel for "USA Today".
For the record, I'd prefer it if Comcast would charge me less for my internet access, and allow me to break out whatever I don't want. I'd rather pay for that to which I subscribe. I don't approve of the "entitlement mentality". I think it's a bad precedent. Mr Murdoch is trying to put the news genie back in the bottle, but it's always harder to monetize something once people are accustomed to getting it for free.
Same with music. Same with movies. Same with fiction.
For that reason, I don't approve of Amazon, and I don't approve of Baen. One needs clarity, and they've muddied the waters. Copyright was pretty straightforward. An author has the right to control the reproduction, distribution and performance of her work. Copyright means that a reader cannot create a new copy of a book (or several copies) in any form (photocopy, CD, email etc), nor may he re-sell or share the copies.
There are two paranormal romance authors whose e-books are continually available on EBay auctions. I assume that those two authors don't mind if their novels are (rightly or wrongly) believed to be in the public domain by thousands of EBayers. Other vampire-and-paranormal authors who need the income from legal sales of their ebooks, and whose books are included in auctions of "191 Vampire and Fantasy Books" are hurt by the lack of clarity.
An apparently overwhelming number of internet users seem to believe that all fiction ought to be free. If they own a computer, and they have an internet connection, everything on the internet ought to be available to them at no further charge. The Net Neutrality advocates seem to believe that someone who spends his entire day and half the night up- and down-loading "free" movies and romance novels ought to pay the same for his internet usage as someone who checks his emails twice a week.
"If we like it, we'll donate what we think it's worth" seems to be the attitude towards creators. So, will we authors return to a Shakespearean business model? Will we rely on holding out the collection cap in cyberspace?
I think not. Allegedly, EBay cannot find copyright owners to notify them of an infringement report, even when the author's name is on the cover of the infringed novel. Allegedly, Google cannot find the authors of "orphan works", especially if they live overseas. So, how likely is it that someone who clicks a link on Astatalk and reads "Forced Mate" and very much enjoys my creative writing is going to find me, locate some means of paying me, and send me money?
It has never happened. It is not going to happen.
By the way, MediaFire has introduced the functionality allowing thieves and all their friends to "share" files to Twitter, Facebook, Stumble Upon, Digg It, and MySpace... and also to embed illegal links.
In my opinion, just because MediaFire posts small print saying that their registered users agree that they are responsible for the content they post does not absolve MediaFire from responsibility. Their "agreement" is with their users, not with their victims. It is MediaFire that makes it possible for an URL to be shared with millions. Like this http://www.mediafire.com/?mjwvmfjwjyd
So, how else did The Queen's Men earn their living? By pleasing a rich and powerful patron. That's how. It won't be good for creativity, accuracy, journalistic integrity. Nor will it be good for the reader. But, as they say, "You gets what you pays for."
I wonder what kind of powerful crackpot would sponsor alien romance authors? The future would probably offer slim pickings for those who would make heroes of vampires and werewolves, too. Bodysnatcher romance might be okay.... but I won't go there.
Seriously, the world changes really quickly. I was listening to a 2010-set Tom Clancy novel. NetForce. Tom assumed that Britain would have a King by now. Some things don't change that quickly! If we write speculative fiction, it's likely that future heroes and villains will still want sex, power, and wealth not necessarily in that order. What else they do for fun and profit might not involve ink and paper. It's more likely to involve multiple choice and pixels.
The other possibility I foresee is a return to the oral tradition of troubadours and travelling storytellers. The only way not to be ripped off and to get people to pay for our creativity would be if we could be more like the evangelists... Joel Osteen?... Fill a ball park with people who'd come to hear us tell a story.