From “The Future of the Book” (The Daily Beast , September 27, 2011):
Where publishing is concerned, the Internet is both midwife and executioner. It has never been easier to reach large numbers of readers, but these readers have never felt more entitled to be informed and entertained for free. I have been very slow to appreciate these developments, and yet it is clear even to me that there are reasons to fear for the life of the printed book. Needless to say, many of the changes occurring in publishing are changes that neither publishers nor authors want. The market for books is continually shifting beneath our feet, and nobody knows what the business of publishing will look like a decade from now.
This is hardly news, of course, and the answer is that there will be few printed books. Or magazines. More trees. But … mor efforts to censor the Internet (“rid it of socially bad elements”). More Harris:
Journalism was the first casualty of this transformation. How can newspapers and magazines continue to make a profit? Online ads don’t generate enough revenue and paywalls are intolerable; thus, the business of journalism is in shambles. Even though I sympathize with the plight of publishers—and share it by association as a writer—as a reader, I am without pity. If your content is behind a paywall, I will get my news elsewhere. I subscribe to the print edition of The New Yorker, but when I want to read one of its articles online, I find it galling to have to login and wrestle with its proprietary e-reader. The result is that I read and reference New Yorker articles far less frequently than I otherwise would. I’ve been a subscriber for 25 years, but The New Yorker is about to lose me. What can they do? I don’t know. The truth is, I now expect their content to be free.
The way newspapers cope, at least in some parts of the Western world, is by pathetic alliances with any government that is morally capable of trying to destroy free new media. That is the reason for their general silence on many civil rights issues across the Western world around freedom of expression. When they are not actually promoting outright suppression.
How do you think ideas about design in nature will fare?
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