m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...

Post-Medium Publishing

Via HTLit: in Paul Graham’s essay from last month on Post-Medium Publishing, he made the economic argument that people have never paid for content, only for paper.

Almost every form of publishing has been organized as if the medium was what they were selling, and the content was irrelevant. Book publishers, for example, set prices based on the cost of producing and distributing books. They treat the words printed in the book the same way a textile manufacturer treats the patterns printed on its fabrics.

Economically, the print media are in the business of marking up paper. We can all imagine an old-style editor getting a scoop and saying “this will sell a lot of papers!” Cross out that final S and you’re describing their business model. The reason they make less money now is that people don’t need as much paper.

There’s also an interesting aside on the business of selling information, in which mainstream publishers rarely participate—think “Hooked on Phonics” vs. the McGuffey Readers.