The Paper Ceiling

Since this site is a project for class, in part, I’m always trying to think of more ‘professional’ features to add to it. I’d be happy to bask in the glow of my many fans’ accolades, but I also want that A, so I’m always trying to come up with new features, if you can call them that.

One of my big inspirations in this project is the never-can-be-too-highly-praised Jonathan Coulton, who also uses Creative Commons and even WordPress. JoCo makes a living off his website, but it’s occured to me that I never could, and it has nothing to do with the quality of my work. It has to do with the medium.

Webcomic artists and musicians, to pick two examples, can make money off of a good product online by a) selling ads and b) taking donations. I can’t really do either. Banner ads between blocks of text would make me hate even my favorite work, and nobody would donate to a writer for things like this.

I think the difference is in marketability. Webcomics often only take a few seconds to process, and there’s a quick punchline. Going back through the archives generates a zillion pageviews, each with different ads. Music can be consumed passively, while working or reading or playing CounterStrike, and there are concerts to make money from – swag, tickets, et cetera.

Writers don’t get any of that fat money cake. It’s a lot harder to convince someone to invest time in reading something than it is to forward VGCats through Twitter or e-mail. That, or a good song, can be consumed during someone’s morning ritual, or between e-mails. A short story takes at least several minutes. Something like The Tale of Baron Hector Krestan takes even longer than that. Furthermore, until netbooks and Kindles and the like are widespread enough that people can sit around lazily and read something electronic as easily as they would a paperback novel, I think that the internet as a means of distribution just won’t take.

That’s the future, though, which I think is awesome. Netbook in my lap in the park as I make the older brother babysit the kids. And when that future happens, when digital is truly that pervasive, then we just need a Trent Reznor. Someone coming from the traditional publishing system that decides to embrace the new tech. After that it’ll take off. And when that day comes, well, I’ll dig out this website and get to work.

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Header photo by David Reber's Hammer Photography. Many ideas and images copyright Blizzard.
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