walkitout (walkitout) wrote,
walkitout
walkitout

It Makes Me a Bad Person to Laugh at This

You probably won't find it funny, for a variety of reasons. Here is the source:

http://www.teleread.com/baen-books/how-digital-media-have-changed-my-buying-habits/

It's an interesting, thoughtful analysis in many ways, if clearly a little outside the typical range of reader thinking (books = electronic games). Here's where the giggles got me:

"Thinking back to my life before e-books and game downloads, I can’t conceive of buying books that I never read or games that I never played. Even the games I got on sale got given a thorough spin. I can only point to 3 or 4 games, out of the couple of dozen on my shelf, that I bought and never tried. And why would you buy something just to take up space?"

Sorry about your computer screen.

Once upon a time, long ago, I worked at a little bookstore on the internet. Possibly you've heard of it. Name starts with an A. There was a desire to put together a recommendations engine using our burgeoning customer data. There were discussions and debates about how best to do this. Over the ensuing decade plus, a variety of strategies have been pursued, using two basic sets of data: what people buy, and the ratings people offer. It was _always_ my contention, right from the beginning, that a retailer who wants to sell more stuff shouldn't pay any attention to ratings or otherwise collect anyone's opinion about what they liked or wanted to buy more of. My theory was simple: people will buy more stuff like the stuff they have already bought, and you can tell if things are "like" by whether people in aggregate tended to buy the same group of things (if millions of customers who buy A also buy B than a customer who bought A will probably be willing to buy B for suitable definitions of all of those words). The only problem -- and this is a _huge_ problem but not that difficult to deal with -- is that certain things are bought by everyone. Those things have to be removed from the analysis pre-emptively (e.g. Harry Potter).

The worst thing about this Russo/Manjoo/Amazon Price Check/independent book store/etc. thing is that no one seems able to bring themselves to continue on to the obvious conclusion: selling more books might be a great economic goal, but it may not be a great goal from a literary standpoint. And buying more books != reading more books.

If your goal as an author is to connect with readers who actually read your stuff, you _definitely_ need a day job. With extremely rare exceptions, that has always been the case (exceptions being certain -- by no means most, much less all -- bestselling authors, and people who don't need any job at all to pay the bills).

I'm feeling optimistic, tho. I grew up in a bit of a time warp: watching a lot of movies and books that were new and popular long before I was born. I got a degree and had a few jobs that were right on the edge of New and Cool and Amazing. And I have since been watching the whole freaking world start doing things that only incredibly geeky people did when I was in college: hang out in online fora, date and marry people they met through IRC (or whatever the kiddies are calling it these days), read manga and watch anime. Heck, we almost have functional micropayments now! Yelp is a functional recommendation/review system for restaurants. Louis C.K. and others are finding it possible as content producers to connect directly with their consumers in a mutually beneficial way.

Some Day Soon, Real Soon Now, we'll come up with a way to filter through all this content so I can find the stuff I'll enjoy and not have to see all this other crap.

The Promised Land.
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