Emergic: Rajesh Jain's Blog

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Micropayments and Free Content

September 8th, 2003 · No Comments

Clay Shirky writes: “What is interesting is the way the failure of micropayments, both past and future, illustrates the depth and importance of putting publishing tools in the hands of individuals. In the face of a force this large, user-pays schemes can’t simply be restored through minor tinkering with payment systems, because they don’t address the cause of that change — a huge increase the power and reach of the individual creator.”

I would tend to agree with Shirky when he says:

The fact that digital content can be distributed for no additional cost does not explain the huge number of creative people who make their work available for free. After all, they are still investing their time without being paid back. Why?

The answer is simple: creators are not publishers, and putting the power to publish directly into their hands does not make them publishers. It makes them artists with printing presses. This matters because creative people crave attention in a way publishers do not. Prior to the internet, this didn’t make much difference. The expense of publishing and distributing printed material is too great for it to be given away freely and in unlimited quantities — even vanity press books come with a price tag. Now, however, a single individual can serve an audience in the hundreds of thousands, as a hobby, with nary a publisher in sight.

The decision a creator must make, according to Shirky, is between fame and fortune. Blogs are showing that a lot many are opting for fame. People have always had voices, it is only now that they can make themselves heard.

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