The Value of Words
As an industry we have talked, debated and fretted about the digital distribution of words for years now. We have talked of the survival of newspapers and magazines as we have come to know them. We have questioned whether or not the printed product will survive or be replaced. I think, however, that there has been less debate about what all this really means to wordsmiths?
If everything is getting cheaper each year as many forecasters will tell you, is the same true for the actual words we read? Are they truly part of the theory behind Chris Anderson's book, "Free: The Future of a Radical Price?" If you buy into Stewart Brand's famous declaration that "information wants to be free," how does that apply to the price to obtain those words in that information? Anderson argues in his book that there is an unstoppable downward pressure on the price of everything "made of ideas." He goes on to say that, "In the digital realm you can try to keep free at bay with laws and locks, but eventually the force of economic gravity will win."
Therefore, I am wondering about the price and value of words. If they are free, how will writers eat, pay their mortgages and send their children to schools so that they, too, can grow up to be writers?
I do not have the answer, but I know that there is gold in them thar hills and that there is greater value to the written word than first appears in Anderson's theories. Perhaps it will boil down to the quality of those words and, since there is an increasing abundance of words available by the talented and the less-than-talented, that only the most perfect series of words created on a continuous basis will be paid for by the literary forces that wish to read only pearls of wisdom.