Friday, March 06, 2020

Capitalism and self-publishing

I haven’t done a long periodical piece here for a while, but Maya MacGuineas leads off the March issue of The Atlantic with “Capitalism’s Addiction Problem”.  The writer is the president of the Committee for a Responsible federal budget.

I’m struck by the way the writer analyzes the way tech’s algorithms addict users to seeing more stuff they can’t refuse.  Right now, I get served the next doomsday article on coronavirus and quarantine threats.  The writer points out that governments have typically restrained addictive products in the past, over eras, like tobacco.

That all depends in large part on persistent identifiers, which (considering COPPA etc) are becoming an increasingly less sustainable way to sustain the digital economy, because of the impossibility of privacy being respected (which may matter even more right now, to trying to avoid the dragnet of quarantines).

A more healthful market depends on consumers paying a “fair market value” for what they consume.  We’re seeing that clumsily attempted with paywalls – and publications could do better at this – by encouraging companies to be formed to bundle the subscriptions, or by selling single articles or single “issues” (monthly magazines) as people can’t afford all possible subscriptions – more or less like buying a periodical monthly magazine at a bookstore.
We also see this problem with the book business, especially for self-published, POD authors.  Is an author supposed to sell book copies (“instances” in OOP language) as consumer items, subject to price points and volume discounts, or is the writer really selling intellectual content that can be consumed interchangeably on multiple media platforms – that is a big problem for POS publishers right now, who see cookbooks as competing with political treatises only as appealing to the “needs” of consumers. 

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