Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Thursday, December 23, 2010

decision time

Here’s a fascinating little essay by Cory Doctorow on . . . well, it’s complicated. He’s explaining why he’s happy with his decision to self-publish his new collection of stories, but he’s using that situation to explore the problem — or the “problem” — of having too much information and too many options:

I'm not sorry I decided to become a publisher. For one thing, it's been incredibly lucrative thus far: I've made more in two days' worth of the experiment than I made off both of my previous short story collections' entire commercial lives (full profit/loss statements will appear as monthly appendices in the book). And I'm learning things about readers' relationship to writers in the 21st century.

But more than ever, I'm realising that the old problem of overcoming constraints to action has been replaced by the new problem of deciding what to do when the constraints fall away. The former world demanded relentless fixity of purpose and quick-handed snatching at opportunity; the new world demands the kind of self-knowledge that comes from quiet, mindful introspection.

That last sentence is great, and worthy of much reflection. When opportunities for acquiring and disseminating knowledge were fewer, we had to act quickly to seize them: who know when another would come by? But now, with so much we can know and so many ways to get our ideas out into the world, we need to seek time and space to filter through the options. We need, as never before, the virtues of discernment.

There’s something to think about in the holiday season. I’ll be back in a few days. In the meantime, a Merry Christmas to all, and God bless us every one!

2 comments:

  • [I]t's been incredibly lucrative thus far: I've made more in two days' worth of the experiment than I made off both of my previous short story collections' entire commercial lives (full profit/loss statements will appear as monthly appendices in the book).

    This, it seems to me, is the more important line.

  • Also, and something I'm likely to write more about in further detail, has anyone else looked at the values underpinning the anti-DRM/CCL/give the book,movie,song away but sell them a t-shirt crowd?

    One of the great promises of this whole networked thing is that wonderful ideas might be rewarded on their own merit, rather than merely serving as loss-leaders for the destruction of scarce resources.

    That the 'give it away to sell a t-shirt' crowd garlands their resource-intensive business model with words like "generousity" and "sharing", while all the while attacking efforts to create lower resourse intensity models is offensive in the extreme.

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