The most disturbing trend I encountered in the past week was when I told two friends that I was reading a good book, and the two friends, miles apart in every way, said, "Oh--will you loan it to me after you're finished?"
Friends have been loaning friends books since Gutenberg I'm sure, and libraries rather make a grandiose habit of it. Nonetheless, I flashed on something that wasn't necessarily related to the economy and the hard times--one of the friends, in fact, was on the job when he made the request. No, the friends weren't pleading poverty. So I wondered if this all had something to do with the fact that because of social media that we expect text and even music to come to us for free.
On the one hand, I don't feel so bad about administering the commercial presses their viaticum. It's really changing quickly for them now--smile--and especially after two dozen years of promoting whatever is vaguely foreign along with an artificial cult of personality, even while most recently polluting our politics with pointless books by political non-thinkers, books that don't direct but merely reflect, the grand commercial New York presses are now reaping what they've sown, and not a moment too soon.
But I do feel bad about the ability of good, meek authors to make money, especially when their books indicate that they are truly authors. When we get so much what we read online and for free, we demand that authors succumb to the lure of cultivating Gagaesque personalities all the more--they have to remove themselves more in order to command enough media attention to inspire someone to buy rather than to borrow. That works against a horizontal social media culture in which everyone has the same pixels space in which to define themselves and even potentially the same number of friends.
I wanted a book too, recently, and not for free either: Michael Warren Myers Brahman: a Comparative Theology. The book is a hardcover and it came out in 2001. I would pay up to a certain point for it. But I can't find a copy of it on the Internet for under $150. The second half of it is on Google books; another third of it is on another provider. Because of the price tag, I am actually reading it piecemeal, printing out what's available on the Internet and then stitching in xeroxes from the library.
So I'm doing it for free too--no better than my two friends--which is not news to me at all. But it is funny how the Internet has thrown the commercial side of both music and books into chaos. The reader and listener in me likes this. The author--not so much.