Google claim to be “the Good Guys”. Maybe they are – at the moment. When that amount of power is focussed in one place, you can bet your bottom dollar the bad guys will want a piece, if not all of the action.
At the moment, Google makes so much money it doesn’t know what to do with it. So what it does, is create new little bits to further colonise the web and other communication technologies, so that in a couple of years, when a some nerds from Stanford come up with a “Google Killer” idea, the web will be owned by Google and they won’t get a look in. Google has learned not to let itself fall into the same trap Microsoft did.
If Google were making real things or selling food or any other utility, they would have been broken up into pieces by now, but somehow, we are perfectly happy to blindly let a real Big Brother outfit take over our lives, because they keep telling us they are the “Good Guys”.
If they really are the good guys, then they should stop fiddling about with operating systems and phones and apply their considerable power and inventiveness to the problem of content.
Google is a parasite. It makes its money by exploiting people like me – the creatives, who spend our lives having ideas, using our brains to move the human condition on. Google sucks up what we do, mashes it up and sells advertising on the back of it. It pays us nothing for our work and claims all the profit. That is either theft or slavery. The very word content demeans the work of creative people. The Mona Lisa is content to a web technologist. Picasso and Shakespeare mere content providers. Content is just a nebulous medium that can be focussed by aggregating technologies to sell advertising to finely chosen markets.
I’m beginning to feel a bit jaded about the wonder of the web. No one makes money as a creative person on the web. Certainly not enough to live on. It makes communication faster and easier, but is that a good thing? When I was young, you could send a postcard in the morning and it would be delivered by tea. Isn’t that really enough? we used to pick up the phone and actually talk to people at the other end – wasn’t that better?
I find myself glued to my communication devices these days. The day goes by and I’ve done nothing but blog, sort through spam and obsessively check my youtube and website stats, this because my publishers tell me it’s not enough to have ideas, to write and illustrate and visit schools and libraries and perform at festivals anymore, I have to blog to create and maintain my market. Woah! Isn’t that the publisher’s job? I blog away like mad, but I don’t think it makes a blind bit of difference to my market, because I don’t address my blog to my market. If I did, there wouldn’t be any point in writing the books, as I’d be giving all my creative work away to the kids who aren’t the ones who buy the books anyway.
Meanwhile, as you read this blog, you and I are putting a journalist out of business, because you really should be reading carefully considered, well-written work from a paid-for journal and I should not be dashing this off for free, but submitting it to a journal who would pay me for my time and effort.
If Google really are the good guys, they should put all their energy into one project – online micropayments.
I’ve removed creative projects from the web because I did not get paid for them while they were online. As they were free, they took away from sales of real books from which I earn real money. Now I can’t be bothered to work on all the great ideas I have because I can’t afford to do them, because I know I won’t get paid.
If I got a micropayment every time someone looked at one of my projects, then it would become worthwhile to start putting projects together, or it would be worthwhile for publishers to gravitate towards online delivery. The way things are going, in about five years time, there is going to be a blood bath in publishing unless an equitable way is found to pay people for the work they do online. As far as I’m concerned, my good will and the fun of experimentation has worn out. Like everyone else, I need to eat and in this system, that means I need cash, not the promise of a new paradigm in a generation’s time, when I’ll be 90 and having to stack shelves at the supermarket.
I tried setting up a secure area of my site to provide quality content. But I could not guarantee the security of it and I found myself turning into a systems administrator – I shouldn’t have to do that. The business guys will tell me that I should be entrepreneurial and set up my own content delivery business, but then I’d never be creative again – I’d spend all my time employing others to do the creative work, while I did the paperwork and programming. I have a publisher to do that. It’s a weird twisted re-cycling argument that technologists and web business people don’t seem to get.
Since the web began to take hold, my workload has at least doubled. If only my income had done the same. I may have stayed in the same place – I think I’m probably going backwards in real terms.
The internet is turning into a place that is purely commercial, a system for screwing money and free labour out of the plebs, (that’s us) by legal or illegal means. Will we continue to walk blindly down this path, or will we revolt or will the good guys come to our aid and create a future that we might want to be part of?
There is a big problem with ebooks. Once all the books in the world have been digitised, there will only be one book. No author, no revenue, except for those who find ways to exploit the power of cut and paste. There will be no reason to write a book again.
Books take time and consideration. Those doing the work need recompense – even if it is only praise and acclaim. There is nothing for the ego in the mashup world of the big ebook.
Look what has happened to music. Because it is so ubiquitous, recorded music has little value anymore. At least musicians have the option of going on tour and making money from live audiences.
You could argue that that is how authors get paid already. Very few make any money from selling books. They live by talking and teaching others how to write books, thus putting themselves further out of business. Technology has not only made books freely available on Amazon, it has both pushed the price down and allowed myriads of middle men to come in and chip away at the profit, making it less and less viable to be an author.
Already we have mash up books written by anonymous committees in anonymous “creative” production houses, promoted with marketing budgets that individual authors would never get spent on their books. This is marketing, not authorship. It’ll be a sad day when that is all that is available – fodder for stupid humans that will have allowed it to happen to them – Soma.
I guess there are a few authors who manage a life on the road, with large audiences all buying signed copies of the book as a souvenir of the gig to put in their collections- not as a book to be read. This is what musicians do now, but an author needs down time for contemplation. If that is taken out of the equation, then all that is produced is pulp. More pulp for the big mashup book in the clouds.
Of course I should declare self-interest in this problem. Will I be able to make any money from my chosen career in a few years time. Something tells me I won’t and that I’d better start looking for new revenue streams.
When I was young, you needed to be a god to even think about starting a band. I had a high opinion of myself! But it was hard to do. There were no mentors, we had to work it out ourselves. Now you can get kitted out at Lidl, learn from the best teachers on youtube and make yourself sound perfect with recording software. The result? Modern music all sounds the same, all overproduced and lacking soul. No wonder all the kids are happily listening to music of my generation. We would have poked our eyes out rather than listen to Doris Day! Music is over. It’s just there and anyone can do it. I don’t see anyone doing anything interesting lyrically these days. Lyrics are a nuisance – they require thought and practice and hard work. Much better to toss off a few lines of greeting card pulp.
Authorship by its very nature, requires time spent thinking, formulating ideas and arguments. It takes a human brain to do this. Machines can churn out stuff that looks like text (humans can do this too!), but you wouldn’t want to read it. The net has to find a way for the individual to be allowed to make money from their ideas and their humanity otherwise the machines win by default, without ever becoming intelligent themselves.
I’m being asked to talk about the writing a lot these days. I’m very happy to do so. I write and plan in a very controlled but chaotic way. Visually minded boys quite often respond to my methods especially when they see me writing dyslexically on the flip chart. They realise they are not alone.
However, I’m beginning to sense of feeling of despair in Primary Schools. What can they do to inspire children to write?
I think the answer is really very simple. Too much is being expected of the children by the oppressive National Curriculum. Who on Earth sets the targets and systems our children are facing?
Primary school children are not just asked to plan and write stories in very prescriptive ways, they have to write in various genre! Most of the kids will never have read anything in that genre other than the few paragraphs of text supplied as an example.
There is one surefire way to improve writing and that is to read. Read a lot and the writing follows. You wouldn’t make a horror movie if you’d never seen a horror film. How can you write a horror story if if you’ve never read one?
Children bring all their experience of genres to the classroom from the TV and video games. That’s okay, but if they never read, how are they ever supposed to know how to put the words together in the right order. There is nothing quite like seeing how others do it. And what could be a more rewarding way of learning than reading all the greatest stories ever written.
Look around a modern classroom. Where have the books gone? They’ve been replaced by computers. Why should children be bothered to read when the message they are being given is so blatant and obvious? Books are those boring things in the piled on shelves under the stairs that gets called the library. Books are for the saddos that don’t want to waste hours of time on the computer looking like they are doing real work.
C’mon – admit it. How much real work do YOU do on a computer? And you expect children to be any different?
Stick the computers back in the computer suite where they belong, and flood your classrooms with books and stories. Before long your children will be writing up to level without any teaching. It will be someting they want and need to do.
We had a lot of fun dreaming up stories. Normally I might share them with you, but we came up with some really interesting ideas I might like to take a bit further.
The school had a nasty fire in 2005. This is the year Three clock that was saved and framed. Very Salvador Dali!
Thanks all for a great day and I’ll look forward to seeing the work you did after I left.
Driving back through the village, I went past the old National School, sporting a very grand sign on the outside. The National schools were run by the National Society for Promoting Religious Education which provided the first near universal elementary education in England.
The snow has melted and joined the pile of rain we had on Sunday, now coursing down the rivers from the Welsh mountains. This is the River Wye at Lower Lydbrook, where the road was almost flooding this morning.
Here’s something to scare the pants off my author friends! I was wondering last night about the Nuss (see previous word of the day – my daughter says it should be nEss) of being an author.
How much of the desire to be an author is bound up in the physical property of a book? If books were replaced by downloads, intangible bits of data that you can’t find on a shelf in a library or bookshop, would so many people spend so much time and effort getting their first story published?
I think there is a difference between authors and writers. Writers can’t help themselves. Authors are people who have their names on books.
The author status is not the same in film or tv or computer games or the state as it is in the physical ness of being a proper book author.
The same goes for artwork. However beautiful a digital image it’s status will never compare with a real thing that you can hold or walk around. Or am I just of an older generation holding on to the old ways, while the new generation grasp new images and means of delivery without the burden of history?
If so, why, when we see something amazing on the internet, do we immediately click through to easyjet and book a flight to see the real thing?
Hooray! – Nip! Nip! is published today. I know it’s not the longest text in the world, but considering I was only allowed to use the letters S,A,T,P,I,N,M,D and it’s only 42 words long- I think it’s a great story and was great fun to do. If you want a really early phonics book that has a real plot – this is for you.
Patrick Ness, who wins the Children’s Book Award for The Ask and the Answer (Book Two of the Chaos Walking trilogy) which the judges acclaimed as “a major achievement in the making”
I quite agree with the judge that the Chaos walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness is a major achievement in the making, I can’t wait for the next installment this autumn, but it is NOT a children’s book and should not be given an award as such.
How many children will be given this book or pick it up themselves because it has won a children’s book prize and then be upset by the relentless grimness and explicit violence?
Something has gone wrong with Children’s Book Prizes. Can crossover books be called exciting books for adults who like a proper, well-written story with a proper plot? Then can we have children’s books prizes for proper children’s books that are written for children again?
Actually, I’m embarrassed that I used to recommend the first book, The knife of never knowing, to year fives and sixes – Id never have done that if I knew what was coming.
Having discovered how to get flash to export to video, I thought I would knock out a quick promo for Cat and Dog, a series I’ve done for Collins Big Cat. There are three books. One has no words, One has a few and one is early phonics. I have so much fun with these books when I visit reception classes. So Many children seem to now these books already when I go to their classes. They are popular with teenagers too, when I talk about making books for young children!
Hooray! My first iphone eBook app is now available at the itunes store to download to your iPhone and read on the go. Millie and Bombassa – Dizzy DIY is a story I wrote and Illustrated for Scholastic, but is unfortunately unavailable in print. It is still one of my most borrowed books from libraries.
The iPhone version is published by SleepyDog, who are boldly going forward into this new and exciting format for children’s books.
Bombassa is a sleepy old rhino who would rather spend the day in bed drinking tea, and Millie is a bright little bird who would rather he got up and did something. A bit like the voices in my head when I wake up in the morning really!
Click the video above to see how it works and hear me read the first chapter – enjoy!
If you are getting this as a feed and can’t see the video, click here to go to the video
If you search back through my blogs, you’ll find that I was most enthusiastic about The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. I liked that book so much, I bought a copy for a friend’s eleven year old son’s birthday. I couldn’t wait for the next part of the trilogy. So when The Ask and the Answer came out, I put it to the bottom of my pile so as to savour the anticipation even more.
So why do I say do not read this book? After all, I was compelled to finish it. Patrick Ness delivers and draws you on and on. It’s the word “Children’s” on the front of the book that worries me. THIS IS NOT A CHILDREN’S BOOK.
The Knife of Never Letting Go deservedly won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award, telling the sometimes brutal story of a boy learning to grow up fast in exceptional circumstances. The treat of violence was always there, but was mostly “off screen”.
The Ask and the Answer is brutal, with graphic scenes of torture and genocide. Mayor Prentiss provides excellent lessons in mind control and perfidy for anyone wanting to know how to work a successful gang.
Yes, Todd and Viola’s bond shines through and provides the power to fight the evil all around them, but that power is not love. I don’t know what it is, but I sense it could be used for evil at a moments notice. Todd has no positive role models – is he strong enough and clever enough to work things out for himself?
I won’t be getting this for my friend’s son this Christmas, as I’d planned, it would be immoral of me to do so, but I can’t wait for the last book to come out – probably another nine months to go.