Friday, April 11, 2008

Get With the New Program

Writers are fiction programmers.

If we begin viewing fiction as software, and writing fiction as programming, then we can free ourselves from publishing’s hard copy centric business model and move it into at least the 20th Century, if not quite the 21st.

You can’t tell yourself a story as good as a story Stephen King can tell you, so you pay to read, hear, or see his. Delivery system matters little. You can have it in hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, on a CD-ROM, on a cassette tape, or filmed as a movie on a theater screen, TV screen, computer screen, iPod, or cell phone. Movies are delivered mostly on DVD but sometimes still on VCR tapes, and electronically.

What matters is the story you are after, not the format it comes in.

And even if you are Neil Gaiman or Peter Straub, and can tell good stories on your own, you still can’t tell yourself a Stephen King story, so you’ll still pay to get one of his, if you like his work.

A story is mental. Stories are ideas presented in a certain way to provide an experience. Each story is software.

Fiction writers program a story experience and we then buy access to it. Access can be in readable, audible, or visual form.

Publishing needs to begin viewing fiction as software to be licensed. Buying a license for a single download in one or more formats is how fiction should be acquired.

A new market model: Publishers sell access to programs, (stories), via a variety of formats or delivery platforms.

Writers license their programs, (stories), to publishers or license access directly to consumers via the internet or other systems.

Publishers will be able to offer value-added aspects such as multiple formats, backup files, and, soon, hypertext or other multimedia enhancement. At core, though, each story is a programmed experience access to which is to be licensed on a per-download basis. Download is an electronic term but a physical copy of a book, printed and bound, will count as a single instance of access. Some publishers may wish to offer multiple formats for a single price; audio and electronic downloads if one buys a hard copy, for instance.

This simple shift of outlook can and very likely will transform publishing and writing. It is a good interim solution to the many questions facing intellectual copyright as technology brings such rapid changes.

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