The Economics of Technological Change

Economics drives the pace of new technological innovation. In turn, technology alters economic relationships.

 Before the early 1800s, most authors self-published their works by hiring a printer or, like Ben Franklin, by printing it themselves. The growth of national markets in population and geography and the introduction of larger, more expensive presses led to the emergence of publishing companies with increased production and distribution capacity. This in turn marginalized the self-publisher to the point where today self-publishing carries the stigma of inferiority.

Tomorrow, however, the electronic marketplace may reshape publishing economics. Desktop publishing and digital distribution radically reduce or eliminate altogether the capital requirements and expenses of typesetting, printing, binding, trucking, warehousing, shelf-stocking and inventory maintenance. If electronic distribution is implemented to allow individual authors or small co-ops access to the world electronic marketplace, the role of currently powerful publishing giants could be seriously challenged.

Or, through consolodation and legislative influence, the media cartels may find a way of retaining their control over the distribution of information.

Who Decides?

As these new economic models emerge, who will have a voice in determining these new relationships? We know that the giant corporations will dilligently look out for their own interests. But who speaks for those who create intellectual property in the first place? We do. We, the National Writers Union and the other unions and guilds representing creators around the world, are the voice of those who do the work.

 But before we ask to be heard, we have to know what we want to say. Which brings us to the task of formulating our positions. This pamphlet addresses the issues confronting authors in the new information age (the pamphlet has been transferred to Web).