November 18, 2009

Moving Money Around in Different Ways

Justin Katz

This quote from John Derbyshire's book, We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism, which I found via a review by Kyle Smith, in National Review, gave us opportunity for discussion and encouragement 'round the construction site:

American parents are now all resigned to beggaring themselves in order to purchase college diplomas for their offspring, so that said offspring can get low-paying outsourceable office jobs, instead of having to descend to high-paying, unoutsourceable work like plumbing, carpentry, or electrical installation.

In order to extend our conversation, I did a quick online search to see if anybody's posted a little more context and noticed — as I increasingly have — that the entire book has been posted online by Google, with searchable text. I'm torn.

It's great to have the high caliber of books bumping up Web content, and for hard to find literature, it's certainly a useful service. Everything that's entered the public domain would have to be fair game (and much of it was already online, somewhere). But I worry that nobody will ever manage to develop financial incentive to write books if they're readily available for free.

To be sure, it would be uncomfortable to read an entire publication in the format provided by Google, but e-readers are increasingly popular, and computer screens are increasingly readable. Our society is going to have to work something out, but with the current speed of technology, making the ability to process and distribute content at high speed, an entire literary culture could fall away while the lawsuits and compromises run their course.