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Books on iPod. (Why Stephen King has been relegated to backup status)

Dear Reader,

Scott Sigler’s latest comment here on Postcards reminded me that while traveling recently, I started listening to “Infection”. Ok Scott, sue me, I’m at least a year behind on my podcasts. But I hate this once a week crap so I wait till the entire book is available and then listen to it all at once. The downside is I’m never motivated to listen to Scott’s ramblings at the end, “Big Space”. (You get the joke kiddies, Big Space…BS…see, I knew you’d get it.) And I never get to comment on whatever Scott talks about before he dives into the story. So I totally missed it when [Avast ye, there be graphic words and images ahead] he caught flack for his character telling a female character “shut up or I’ll cut out your cunt and watch you bleed to death”.

Now, immediately previous to this, the character had just nailed a man to the wall with steak knives and beat him till he assumed room temperature; nobody had a problem with that. But threaten abuse against a woman and by-god your are going to lose an infinitesimal number of listeners. Anyhow, I wish I had been listening to it weekly when that happened so I could have commented on it in a relevant time frame.


So what’s all this got to do with anything? Well other than trying to out curse Ed Finkler in a blog post (not really possible but everybody needs a goal) I really wanted to talk a bit about where fiction is headed. I’ve been a Steven King fan for a long…LONG time. From “Graveyard Shift” that I read in early high school, all the way up to “The Girl that loved Tom Gordon” , which was a huge disappointment, I read most everything he wrote. But honestly, sometimes (like the last title mentioned) Steve just kinda phoned it in.

A couple of years ago, I found myself about to embark on a cross-country drive. (why is irrelevant) I wanted something to listen to in the long stretch of highway so I went out searching for free books for my iPod. Among other goodies, I found this one called “EarthCore”. It sounded sufficiently Sci-Fi and gory so I downloaded. It only took a couple of episodes and I was an EarthCrack junkie. It was one of the best fiction books I had read/listened to.

Since then I don’t think there has been a time that my iPod hasn’t contained piece of a Scott Sigler novel. Right now I have 2, “Infection” and “The Rookie”, my long flight to Europe isn’t looking that bad. The thing that makes these books good is not the free it’s the talent.

Stephen King’s Got Your Back

I also have a Stephen King Audio Book, “The Cell” on my iPod. I paid considerably more for it and it’s been there since November and I’ve not bothered to listen to it. It’s not that I don’t think that King’s books are any good, it’s just that Scott’s are so much better. When I run out of new Scott Sigler material (and he blocks my emails because I’ve begged for more and he’s tired of it) then I’ll dust off “The Cell” and listen to it. Since it’s the unabridged version I’m guaranteed a long listen, even if it’s not full of “lot…and lots of f****** violence.

Finally, the point

The point of this post is not to gush like a fanboy over Scott. (I did that when he showed up at ZendCon and I’d had a couple of glasses of wine) My point is that so far book publishers have not suffered the same fate as music publishers have, and movie publishers will.

The music industry got complacent and content with the the idea that people would buy whatever they publish. The Internet busted this all up, not by letting people download music for free. Cal’s first law of content is “Free crap is only marginally better than being charged for crap…it’s still crap.” No, the real revolution was the ability for listeners to find music that was good but wouldn’t make it in the mainstream. (I’d throw out a cliche here like “The Long Tail” but really, we all know what I’m talking about) Good, free or otherwise, is still good.

Movies are heading there, it’ll just take a bit longer. Since the industry’s attitude towards users is the same – you are all dirty criminals and can’t be trusted with our precious, precious content – the outcome will be the same, plummeting sales, phony posturing about piracy and a lot of late night drinking trying to figure out where the hell things went wrong. (and again, see “Cal’s First Law” above)

It should go without saying but I’ll say it anyhow. I encourage everyone to consider this before buying an album or a movie ticket. Do you really like supporting industries that treat you like a criminal, even if you’ve not done anything? If we all just stop buying their products, maybe they will start listening.

The problem as I see it is that both industries value their content much higher than the average person does. What they don’t seem to understand is that they can’t sue consumers into valuing their content any higher. It’s only when we see value in their content that we will be willing to pay to consume it. I value Scott’s content, I’m willing to pay for it and I consume it like the junkie I am.

It’s artists like Scott (who, I was floored to find out, still works a day job. I wonder if any of the victims in “Infected” are named after his boss?) who give me hope for the future. If all music artists, movie producers and authors take the time to engage their audience like Scott does, I think there is hope. If they don’t, my personal opinion is that they will fall by the wayside. Either way, don’t worry Scott, Steve’s got your back.

Until next time,

2 thoughts on “Books on iPod. (Why Stephen King has been relegated to backup status)

  1. Man, you’ve hit the nail right on the head. The reason my stuff is good, and other podcast novelists provide good stuff, is that we bust our ass to make it top-shelf. We’re volunteering our time, we’re vying for market share, fighting for attention – there is no “phoning it in.” If I don’t put out the best story I can write, who’s going to listen? I’ve got no big publishing company behind me, no marketing, no PR, no crack publicity team, I’m not on Letterman, Leno, Oprah Conan or any of the others … the ONLY way I spread my poison is by word of mouth. That’s it.

    The record companies forgot this a long time ago. So have the movie companies. The put out watered-down schlock that’s geared to cater to the lowest common demoninator. That’s where the new wave of fiction talent is different – we write what we WANT to write, and if you don’t like it, there’s the fucking door, just move on down the road. There’s a billion people on the internet – I can give my content away, find a miniscule percentage of that billion, and still have tens of thousands of listeners. Sure, I don’t get everyone, but the ones that I do get, man, I get them hooked.

    There’s a wave coming that’s going to crush the publishing empires. It’s not going to be here tomorrow, because over 50% of the people who by books are not the computer-embeded culture of those under 30. But it is coming, and soon. I like to think that the people giving their fiction content away, the Doctorows, the Hutchins, et cetera, we’re the barbarians at the gates of the big publishers. And when their sales dry up, and they are going out of business, they’ll wonder what the hell happened why everyone else wonders why they had their head so far up their ass they weren’t paying attention when the world shifted.

    That, or they can throw money at me so I can sell out. Either way, poppa needs a new pair of shoes.

  2. The story above mentions “The Cell.” The Stephen King novel is just called Cell. It isn’t any good, by the way. It is a Michael Crichton style tale, where the author appears bored with his own story and behaves as though he wrote the entire thing while half asleep.

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