Devaluation of Creative Work?

I appreciate a good bargain like any other person, but this post about ‘more books than I can read in a lifetime’ gave me a feeling of unease instead of elation. The music industry was revolutionized with the easy availability first of CD, then online streaming of content–paid for legitimately or not to the point that global conscience about having to pay for music has devalued it to the point that almost no one I know feels it is a ‘crime’ to listen to music for ‘free’. Previously the social contract was that you could go to a record store and listen to a song in a booth before buying—remember those? (born before 1970s :-)) Or you listened to the radio’s announcements and DJ’s comments in between getting to the songs and maybe (same generation) you made or received a lovingly crafted and curated cassette tape of songs from an admirer. The movie industry was also disrupted by online editing, production and distribution. But I guess I never noticed or thought about books before.

The idea of reading economically is nothing new. Ben Franklin started a library to offer the opportunity to improve oneself. Lincoln borrowed books. I borrow book eversion and old fashioned paper from the library. But as an example: Russell Simmons’ Do You! can be bought online at Amazon, borrowed from the library, or bought or gotten for free or almost free from a variety of different sources. If I am not Russell Simmons, who is already rich, how does the average author get paid for their work? Others monetize his creative work by publishing ‘summaries‘ of his book, offering you free or almost free versions if you sign up for their services of offering content. But, what value does it really bring the world by creating the illusion of unlimited resources online? And does this model support or even encourage creative work to be made?

I borrow books that I know I don’t want to own, in electronic or paper form–those that I know I won’t be reading again. Sometimes I buy a book after I have borrowed and read it because I enjoy or value it so much.  I buy books that I know I will want to read more than once–even if I can borrow it more than once.  Now, I am going to apply my rationale to restaurants and other shops I enjoy–for ultimately selfish reasons and a pinch of philanthropy and entrepreneurs’ solidarity I frequent and recommend people to patronize those places and people I feel should continue their service.  I always have a stack of books I haven’t gotten around to reading yet–but it is always a stack I feel I actually WILL read one day. I am not sure how buying or collecting free hundreds of titles is helpful to yourself or to the person who spent so much resources to create it in the first place.

Does the fact that books of all titles are ‘free’, or not used in physical form devalue it’s worth, or has the publishing business transformed so much that a book isn’t about its content anymore?

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