Google's publishing free for all undermines our literary tradition | Books | The Observer

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The Threat of Digitisation: Robert McCrum in The Observer

McCrum is always worth reading and he is especially trenchant here. Reas the whole piece, not just the quoted extract.

Books, like newspapers, are an essentially middle-class phenomenon whose market is the self-improving professional. As a bourgeois medium, books and their authors depend on the cash nexus. Johnson went straight to the point with: "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."

Johnson was right. Words that get written for money are likely to be superior to words spun out for nothing, on a whim. California's "free" movement wants to argue that literary copyright is an intolerable restriction of the public's right to access information, and that words should be free. That's a profound threat to the western intellectual tradition. I hope that André Schiffrin, having raised the alarm about the demise of serious publishing and journalism, will urgently turn his attention to the new, possibly darker, threat of digitisation and its consequences.

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'Words that get written for money are likely to be superior to words spun out for nothing, on a whim.'

I object strenuously to this view - rather obviously, based on my own undertakings. Though McCrum qualifies his statement with 'likely', his very choice of words - 'WRITTEN for money' rather than the altogether negatively weighted 'words spun out' is grating. I'd like to point out that amateur work can be as dedicated and vigorous as any that is paid, and in fact a number of the (well-paid!) professional orchestra musicians I know hardly bother to practise or stretch themselves any longer, whereas certain serious 'hobby musicians' easily outstrip them. Their work is not based on a whim - and nor is mine.

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This page contains a single entry by achuka published on September 19, 2010 8:39 AM.

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