Intellectual property is just that—the landscape of the mind subdivided and developed into something marketable. And for writers, especially fiction writers, tilling the soil of that "plot" of land, using the imagination to build fanciful constructs that readers enjoy inhabiting, is the only way we can earn a living.
But the digital world has changed all that. Books are no longer tangible, frangible, (burnable too, as history has taught us) hefty lumps of pulped wood that smell good and bow the shelves of libraries... and like slow food, take longer to digest. To new generations of readers books are mere fleeting flickers of binary code; no more valuable (in terms of RAM) than a few seconds of a cell phone video recording of grandma playing with a kitten. It has changed the way we perceive books, read them, market them, and value them (a knock-off is no longer second best: it's a replica, indistinguishable from the original).
And Amazon and e-readers like the Kindle have changed the way we publish books too; by blurring the boundaries between the professional and amateur writer they have compromised quality. The boomer bulge of retirees and unemployed computer-savvy twenty-somethings have turned the cliché ("If I had the time, I'd like to write a book too.") on it's head. Now everyone seems to have the time—the market is being flooded (a tsunami of wannabes and boomers eradicating fence lines, protocols: standards of all descriptions) with a deluge of product.
And like any real estate bubble—even a virtual one—when supply exceeds demand, the bubble bursts.
— Michael Hale
"Ewan Morrison is an established British writer with a credit-choked resume and a new book out, Tales from the Mall, that the literary editor of the venerable Guardian newspaper hailed as 'a really important step towards a literature of the 21st century.' By his own account, Morrison is also being driven out of business by the ominously feudal economics of 21st-century literature, 'pushed into the position where I have to join the digital masses,' he says, the cash advances he once received from publishers slashed so deep he is virtually working for free. [...]
The economic trajectory of writing today is 'a classic race to the bottom,' according to Morrison, who has become a leading voice of the growing counter-revolution – writers fighting fiercely to preserve the traditional ways. 'It looks like a lot of fun for the consumer. You get all this stuff for very, very cheap,' he says. But the result will be the destruction of vital institutions that have supported 'the highest achievements in culture in the past 60 years.'”
— John Barber, The Globe and Mail