Thursday, October 11, 2007

How You Gonna Keep Us Down On the Farm After We've Seen Paree?

A reader started a discussion on an mystery forum with a post about self-publishing saying he/she has written to Amazon asking them to stop carrying self-published novels. But—no surprise here—Amazon has not replied.

Amazon is in business to sell books, not to be a gatekeeper to weed out bad writing. Bricks-and-mortar bookstores do keep out most self-published books as well as many published by small independent publishers, but that's primarily an issue of using limited shelf-space for books that they think are most likely to sell. Amazon doesn't have this concern.

Being able to sell our self-published books on Amazon is a great example of how the internet has opened up opportunities for so many of us to share the products of our creative nature beyond our local community and/or immediate friends and family. The internet has democratized creativity by opening up the creative and/or problem-solving process to everyone.

And we are SO ready! Human beings are creative, imaginative and inventive by nature. We like to express our ideas through visual arts, music, and literature. We like to discover new solutions to old problems. We like to consider issues, formulate opinions and speak out. But for a long time we've had an elitist system that is biased in favor of credentials, expertise, experience, and connections.

The internet is changing all this by providing an opportunity for people to share or sell ideas, knowledge or creations without having to prove they have the credentials

  • We have Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia created by anyone and everyone working together, which is about as accurate in covering scientific topics as Encyclopedia Britannica, according to a 2005 study published in the journal Nature.

  • YouTube, a site where people can upload, view and share original videos complete with music, has in the two years it's been out there reached a volume of 20 million visitors per month, and gets about 65,000 videos uploaded every day.

  • A few years ago, the website asked people to create homemade political ads and posted about 1,500. Currently they are asking people to contribute to an ad campaign with pictures of themselves showing how they feel about the war, and a voice messages to Congress.

  • An online t-shirt company called Threadless gets all of its designs though an online contest that brings in hundreds of submissions each week. A few are posted to the website where anyone can rate them, and the ones with the highest ratings are made into tee shirts.

  • At the InnoCentive website anyone can register as a potential problem-solver to take a shot at coming up with a solution to technical or scientific problems posted by "seekers". Seekers and solvers are anonymous to each other. Companies evaluate proposed solutions on the basis of their merit rather than by evaluating the resume of the person proposing the solution. Solvers whose solutions are selected and used are paid for their ideas.

  • Blogs provide millions of writers the opportunity to share their thoughts, opinions and activities with readers all over the world.

The elitists among us continue to insist that the internet's level field promotes quantity over quality. They want gatekeepers to save them the time of wading through the muck in search of something worthwhile. They say that most people's views are not worth listening to, most people's writing is not worth reading, and most people's art is not worth looking at.

But I think they are fighting a losing battle. Thanks to the internet many of us have gotten a taste of freedom of expression and we like it. And we're not going back to the old elitist system.

1 comment:

  1. And at Cafepress anyone can have an online print shop with no overhead...making ordering, money processing and customer service easy as uploading your own images.