Precious Cargo

Refreshingly Bitter And Twisted Observations On Life's Passing Parade.

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Location: Valley Village, California, United States

Friday, November 18, 2005

Self-Publish And Perish

"Bottom line? The average print-on-demand book sells fewer than 200 copies."

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Nicholas Carr’s essay is possibly the best single piece of writing I’ve ever read that seriously challenges the utopian gushing about the internet that is so often perpetuated by the media (seeking to be seen as hip and cutting edge, they embrace every technological fad once it appears on their radar, like the iPod).

Here are two excerpts, but go read the entire essay.

"In theory, Wikipedia is a beautiful thing - it has to be a beautiful thing if the Web is leading us to a higher consciousness. In reality, though, Wikipedia isn't very good at all. Certainly, it's useful - I regularly consult it to get a quick gloss on a subject. But at a factual level it's unreliable, and the writing is often appalling. I wouldn't depend on it as a source, and I certainly wouldn't recommend it to a student writing a research paper.

And so, having gone on for so long, I at long last come to my point. The Internet is changing the economics of creative work - or, to put it more broadly, the economics of culture - and it's doing it in a way that may well restrict rather than expand our choices. Wikipedia might be a pale shadow of the Britannica, but because it's created by amateurs rather than professionals, it's free. And free trumps quality all the time. So what happens to those poor saps who write encyclopedias for a living? They wither and die. The same thing happens when blogs and other free on-line content go up against old-fashioned newspapers and magazines. Of course the mainstream media sees the blogosphere as a competitor. It is a competitor. And, given the economics of the competition, it may well turn out to be a superior competitor. The layoffs we've recently seen at major newspapers may just be the beginning, and those layoffs should be cause not for self-satisfied snickering but for despair. Implicit in the ecstatic visions of Web 2.0 is the hegemony of the amateur. I for one can't imagine anything more frightening.

In 'We Are the Web,' Kelly writes that 'because of the ease of creation and dissemination, online culture is the culture.' I hope he's wrong, but I fear he's right - or will come to be right."

I recently had my own experiences demonstrating how flawed Wikipedia is. Perhaps I'll write something about it later.

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