Some media have crossed into the digital realm so completely the older version is struggling. Music seems to be first on the chopping block, with DRM-free mp3s small, easily transported and potentially cheaper yet still providing artists with a living, whether by the Radiohead route or by promoting their tours. Television is feeling the pinch, with UK police shutting down the popular link site tv-links earlier this week (although they don’t know if they can actually charge him with anything for just providing links to non-hosted content). The MPAA has been fighting new media for years but movies are becoming legally available on sites like Jaman and Joost.
As of yet print media hasn’t caught on. There’s some ebook piracy and sales out there but the share is small – authors like Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross have seen increases rather than decreases in their book sales by offering their ebooks for free. More and more people use blogs and online newspapers for current events but staring at a computer screen isn’t conducive to reading long tracts of text. Whilst the short story market is dwindling, there hasn’t really been a consistent idea about what will replace chapbooks and magazine.
Advances in epaper might be getting us to the point where that might happen. Bridgestone’s new epaper that bends and folds like real paper whilst displaying digital information is a really promising start. Together with advances in wireless internet coverage and computer size, epaper offers a promising new business model for fiction, especially shorter works. Imagine subscribing your epaper to posts on economy from the Guardian, breaking news from the Washington Post, sport highlights from nfl.com and BBC, fiction from Asimovs and Strange Horizons and maybe a few stories and posts from Futurismic, all arriving on publication to the paper in your hands, ready to read. But like all these new media markets, it’ll need to be sustainable, DRM-free and reasonably priced. Are we prepared to make that change?