The (public) library vs. the (private) RIAA

In another in a seemingly endless series about the present day music industry, I had a new thought cross my mind. Not new information, but maybe a new metaphor to apply to the recording industry situation. I've make reference before to the idea that massive record sales of the 80s and 90s are an anomaly, not the norm, for music as a consumable product. People have moved on the DVDs and Tivo. I've watched in amusement for the last few years as the RIAA tries desperately not to accept this.

I have visited the Littleton public library several times and it's an excellent resource for a smaller library. While browsing the stacks last week I was reminded of how many hundreds of books are released every month. Even if all new book releases were stopped today it would take me decades to read everything in the speculative fiction section alone. It applies to music as well. Online radio like Progulus lets me get a good sample of a lot of music. I enjoy most of it, and I could never afford the money or time to actually buy all of it.

So why keep writing books? Well, for authors it may be a mix of artistic compulsion and a job. For publishers, they hope for the occasional huge hit, but they can also publish books in moderate quantities and not put a lot of money up front. With new digital options, there's almost no production cost at all beyond paying the people who worked on it. It's similar to something I read about Jazz back in college, that Jazz labels considered a record successful if it sold 20,000 copies. Make your money back, make a small profit, and move on the the next gig. The RIAA can't tell the difference between success and MASSIVE HIT EVERYBODY PARTY! No one should be pressured not to write a book, paint a picture, or record an album because it won't make someone else rich.

After a book or any creative is done, it enters the culture at large. Whether 10 people or 10,000 people read it, it's there to be used. Libraries now also have a lot of music and movies. Libraries are storehouses of culture. It's a place that holds a record of a people and their creativity. Storytelling is one of the few things left that humans do and animals don't (as far as we know). As an artist, I am more interested in being part of the creative conversation and part of the cultural record than in diluting my intentions to make money.

Do authors lose money when people borrow a book from the library rather than buying it? Sure, it seems obvious. But, as others have ably written, obscurity is far worse an enemy to art than whether or not people get it for free.


A few notes

Here are a few notes I've had on my facebook page, I thought I'd toss them on here. I'm so prog, my notes are in 11.

Eleven first observations of being a work at home contractor
1. My morning commute is about 20 feet, from the bed to the living room.

2. I can do laundry and dishes while I'm at work.

3. It hasn't been hard at all to stay focused on my work that pays by the hour.

4. It is somewhat, as it always has been, hard to focus on all my work that doesn't pay by the hour, and may never pay at all.

5. Since I had to get the living room ready to be a workspace, the bedroom remains a maze of boxes.

6. I have only myself to blame if the coffeepot is empty.

7. I am happy to already have some leads on other work, since the IRS gets crabby if you only contract with one company.

8. I am eternally grateful that my former employer was willing to remain my largest client.

9. I can play my music as loud as I want while I work.

10. The cleaning service for the office still hasn't been by yet... oh wait, that would be me... crap.

11. The one hour lunch is a beautiful thing. 

Eleven first observations of being a Colorado resident
1. I love the weather. Lack of humidity is brilliant.

2. I don't think I'll ever get tired of seeing the mountains.

3. The Duffeyroll Cafe makes kickass cinnamon rolls.

4. The predominant tree here, at least in my area, is the cottonwood.

5. The Denver area park/trail system is stunning. Many parks are connected by trails and I could bike or walk around most of the area without ever crossing a street.

6. $70 desk + instructions for assembly = 3 hours of work. $70 desk - instructions = 1.5 hours work.

7. Everything I need is less than a mile away.

8. ...hmm?.. oh, what? Sorry, I was staring out the window.

9. I probably should have been here years ago.

10. Even though I just got here, I can't wait to travel. Looks like Utah might be my next stop.

11. In the morning there seems to be a light smell of cinnamon on the wind. Also seems to be there in the petrichor after the rain. Don't know if it's a plant or what. In researching what this might be I also discovered that cinnamon may be used to cover the smell of a rotting corpse, and that an unfinished chemical process in the production of meth may also smell like this. Colorado keeps it interesting.

Eleven first observations after The Road
1. I will never get tired of driving all over the country. I haven't even driven over the whole thing yet. I've pretty much ignored the east coast.

2. The inside of the hotel room has no relation to the outside.

3. I love having friends I can stay with all over the place.

4. I've been to big cities and to the middle of nowhere. I've seen towns time forgot, towns bypassed by the freeway. Towns on hard times and towns on their way back. But I've never been to a town that actually seemed cranky to be where it was. Until Green River Utah. Really, there was a weird vibe there, like the buildings were wishing to be elsewhere. My thought that buildings could have wishes might be related to number 5.

5. Listened to the entire Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy series on audio book. Actually kinda disappointed at the end. Not because of the plot itself, but Mostly Harmless seems kinda disjointed and rushed. Also disappointed that Fenchurch vanishes and Zaphod isn't in it.

6. IHOP has football themed dishes right now. The 'draft pick' is great. Scrambled eggs, spinach, roasted tomatoes and parmesan cheese. Go get it, now. Really, I'll wait.

7. Camping was ok but a bit of a bust. Snow and cold prevented camping in Colorado. Got rained on while camping the last two days.

8. Kansas and Nebraska are both long drives but I much prefer Kansas. Grasslands in the west, rolling hills in the east. Vast distances stretching to the horizon. Nebraska - tall corn at the roadside... can't see anything but corn.

9. Mark Twain museum - what an amazingly full, complex, hard, rich and tragic life. Reading him as a kid was a disservice. I need to read everything that isn't Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn now.

10. If you ever have to drive across north central Illinois I recommend highway 2 from Dixon to Beloit. Very nice drive along the Rock River. And, if you're interested, you can stop in Dixon and see the boyhood home of Ronald Reagan. I wasn't, so I didn't.

11. For the first time ever, I am not relieved to be back home after a long trip.