Go Read This | Google’s publishing free for all undermines our literary tradition | Books | The Observer

Interesting piece by Robert McCrum. Not sure I agree entirely with him, but there’s much to like, and a good recommendation or two as well.

There’s a lot that’s passionate and useful in Schiffrin’s anguished analysis. He is right to identify a healthy market as the key to a vital culture and vigorous democracy. His heart is certainly in the right place, but strangely, for a book entitled Words and Money, he never fully addresses the thorny question of “free”, as articulated by Anderson, James Boyle (The Public Domain) and Lawrence Lessig (Free Culture). I wish he had because this goes to the heart of the crisis faced by print at the moment.

Books, like newspapers, are an essentially middle-class phenomenon whose market is the self-improving professional. As a bourgeois medium, books and their authors depend on the cash nexus. Johnson went straight to the point with: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

via Google’s publishing free for all undermines our literary tradition | Books | The Observer.


  1. I think books are like bottled water. We can all get free water from a tap (the internet) but sometimes we’re willing to pay for a nice, cool, well filtered and presented product.

    1. Ahh,

      Interesting analogy that. In fact the water from the tap is rarely free, because it’s paid for by general taxation, council rates or a direct water tax. The cost is hidden to the consumer. They don’t tend to associate a fee with the act of turning the tap and drinking because the cost is not proximate to the action.

      There is a cost to the web, it is being paid to access providers and companies that control the pipes. That isn’t being passed on to the creators yet, but in time it will have to be.

      The Scholarly Kitchen has an interest piece on this HERE.

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