March 02, 2008

Guest Post: What Digital Media Can Learn From Books

Guest post written by Arvin Dang, currently writing for The Apple Blog.

We are the generation that lives through media. We don’t watch to pass time, we watch to learn and grow. I’m not sure what this reflects on our education system, but just as literature inspires, media can spark the same creativity and instill similar values.

What can media learn from books?

The inherent value we gain from a book's physicality is amazing. I can buy a book, write in it, store it, trade it, share it, sell it, copy it and burn it. I may not be able to physically hold a movie or a song, but I hope to be able to create the same utility surrounding it.

When comparing digital media and books, I’m not comparing E-books or E-Readers because they face the same DRM issues as most music and videos do. I understand the rules and regulations of copyright placed on books, and I understand the necessity of including plagiarism in context of this.

Now let’s have a look

With a book, I understand the author’s words and right of ownership, but I’m free to quote them and to share their words. I can literally copy every page of a borrowed book without ever paying for it. Will I have RIAA or the Government following my every move? Borrowing a book, if anything, builds reputation. Just as word of mouth is the best form of advertising, sharing someone’s content enables the ability for word to spread. Not only will the author or creator gain readership, they gain reputation. Ultimately, that seems to be far grander than any monetary benefit. Why can’t the same happen with digital media?

Libraries, where books can be borrowed completely free seems completely unconventional right? If video content were offered on a public level similar to libraries, who’s losing out?

Why hasn’t independent content caught on as successfully as the Industry?

I don’t know. You tell me. Is it quality of production? Is it the acting? Or the writing? All I know is media should be based on reputation, not profit. If it helps make you more known, provides meaning, and basic ownership is understood, then why can’t TV follow the same path as books?

I understand the role of money in media. Without monetization, the Entertainment Industry may not be able create the beautiful epics we see. I see the success of independent creators like The Next New Networks proving that the industry doesn’t need to equate profit with content. It makes me very curious to see the actual breakdown; to take a season of The Office and see how much total production costs verse how much is monetized and gained from commercials and sales (DVDs, etc).

It’s a greedy market and a demanding world, but if books can find a balance, can’t media?