I listen to a lot of talk radio. Not as much as I used to but one of my favorites is Glenn Beck. He is also a best selling writer but that is beside the point right now. He is 'riddled with a.d.d.' and uses 'ballpark facts.' These are facts that have a glimpse of truth in them and are true as he remembers them. that is what this is going to be. I wouldn't get into a history contest with a professor based on this information but it should be close enough for the point I am trying to illustrate.
Every one right now is worried about the state of the publishing industry. Publishers are cutting back on accounts and new authors are being put on the back burner while established authors are having their expense accounts cut as well. What is a new writer to do.
This isn't the first time. Two hundred years ago the predominant form of publication was, you guessed it, the newspaper. Charles Dickens and even E.A. Poe serialized their stories and sold them to the newspapers. It sold newspapers and it was a cheap medium for the masses. this model also worked for Jules Vern and Victor Hugo as well as many other popular writers. Books were expensive and the library system, as we know it, didn't exist yet.
Let 100 years pass and the magazine picked up the pace. Newspapers decided they could get revenue in other ways and magazines like Saturday Evening Post, Life, Weird Tales and several others started to gain in popularity. In fact, while novels were being written, the popular medium was the short story (oh how readers habits can change). Several writers made a very good living writing just the short story: O'Henry, Lovecraft, Chandler, Hemingway.
This era in publishing lasted about fifty years or so, again with the short story being the most popular. Then the industry changed. In the 1950's or so and into the 60's the novel became more popular with printing technology changing rapidly and the advent of cheaper books and incomes on the rise novels came into vogue. Several short story writers either had to admit that they could no longer make a comfortable living in this new model and either, continued to write short stories and flounder or learn to write longer pieces and flourish. It was the new age in publishing and it seemed to work.
Now to the present age. 1997 or so (these are ballpark facts you can check this stuff on your own time) Stephen King decides to write an online novel called The Plant. He was going to publish it only online and you could pay him what you would (He threatened that if not enough monetary interest was shown he would stop the project.) It went on for a couple of chapters and then abruptly stopped, he claims because for lack of interest in the project. It was the most successful online book ever until over a decade later.
Come 2008. The economy is down (at least that is what all the economist will tell you. Have you been to the mall in the 2.5 weeks until Christmas. Looked pretty packed to me) The online model is looking better all the time. they are cheap to produce. People will buy their own readers (Kindle and the like, but the price needs to come down for the average person yet)
In short the industry will change. It has before and it will again. Nature of the business I guess. The problem is are we willing to change with it. I for one am willing to give it a shot and be part of the next big thing. Incidentally I think we are part of that next big thing already. the online magazine industry is becoming more viable with each each new issue. The formats are easy to read and even if you don't have a Kindle you can read some amazing stuff that looks like the printed page, even if it doesn't have the smell or feel of it.
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