Thursday, February 10, 2011

Will charisma count most?

I don’t have a good answer to the question I’m about to pose, and so it bothers me from time to time, most recently when Neil Gaiman posted a very calm, thoughtful video on piracy and the web. It elicited the same “yeah, but…” reaction I always have to Cory Doctorow, Seth Godin, et. al. It generally goes “yeah, but you were all some combination of already established, famous, well connected, and insanely charismatic in person….”

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting these people are just charismatic and not talented. That’s beside the point.

My question is, does an open/free approach to books and copyright only work for a certain kind of author? Are we moving toward a book market that, in its zeal for openness, closes itself off to certain authors? The example that always leaps to mind is Dickens—he’d have done well if he traded time periods with Cory Doctorow, I suspect. He’d have killed on the speaking circuit now as he did 150 years ago. But what about Jane Austen, I then ask? But that’s an analogy that’s more cute than useful. Austen didn’t expect to live on the income from her books. It’s not a comparison that gets anywhere.

Is this the wrong way to see this question? I feel like I’ve been nagging myself in circles with this “yeah but” for years? I want new answers.

Creative Commons photo by Eleaf