Form or Content?

Interesting article by Paul Graham on “Post-Medium Publishing, and it comes with the idea that we pay for form, not content.

This actually brings up the idea of buying first editions, or special edition books.  And how books were once purchased separate from the binding — you’d then have your books bound as you wished, paying for more expensive leather covering if you could afford such a thing.  It could be that we’re moving back to that.

I’ve often thought that authors now need to offer various editions.  The free download, the printed paperback, the signed special edition, the complete collectable version which includes audio, and then of course the edition for a few thousand dollars which includes dinner out with the author.  This could be a much better way for authors to actually make money and still deal with the world of downloads and free.  And, frankly, there are books that I’ve read where afterwards I almost wish I had a more special edition — I loved them that much.

And perhaps we’ll get back to more speaking tours–Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, they made their money more from their tours, and not so much from the printed page.  But, of course, the tours will be virtual ones, held online at the computer, streaming video and mixing in questions.

And, of course, this means a stronger after-market for an author’s work. Collectables will go up in value.  Or perhaps an author can actually regulate that by releasing more forms of the work–a newer edition, the illustrated edition, or even revised editions with additional scenes (heck, TV shows and movies do that, so why shouldn’t books?).

But writers are generally more interested in the content.  And I suspect readers are as well (I am–it’s why I’ll read cereal boxes…I want the story, and the form takes second place).

On the other hand, there are forms that make the story more accessible.  Form does matter.  Now the question is — just what forms am I willing to pay for?

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