Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Why Books Shouldn't Be Free
My favorite authors are all professionals, meaning they get paid for their work, some more, some less. Some worked other jobs (most did at some point, and it's a valuable experience), some didn't.
I hear many authors (and other artists) say that they don't mind giving away their work because they don't do it for the money, they do it out of love for the work and because they want people to read what they've written. But the idea that someone doesn't need to be or should be paid because they're not doing it for the money doesn't hold up. Only artists are taken advantage of that way, and we let it happen by the false sense of competition created and the devaluing of our work ("You should just be happy someone's reading your story.")
"Hi, I'm a doctor. I don't do this for the money, it's because I love healing people. So, no, you don't have to pay me."
"Hi, I'm an architect. I love what I do, and heck, think how many people are going to see my building. No charge for my services of course."
"Hi, I'm an inventor. I love dabbling and creating new things, so sure, you can have my patent. I don't do it for the money."
"Hi, I'm a scientist. Science is my passion and my life. Of course I don't expect to be paid for what I love to do. I'm happy to help society."
"Hi, I'm a teacher. I love children and helping them learn and become better grown-ups. You don't have to pay me for what I do, I do it out of love." (oops, that's just about true for teachers, who are also screwed!)
Our society values what we teach it to value by our choices. Some of those choices are difficult and require courage. I don't think every author should be paid a large amount of money for their work. I think those whose work has value should be compensated financially in a reasonable way because THAT is how our present society expresses cultural value. As soon as tech gear and rent and food, etc. is free, I'll be happy to give away all my stories.
We all shape our society by the decisions we make. Whatever yours are, as a person who creates or as a person who enjoys the creative work of others, realize you're affecting more than just yourself.