Friday, September 12, 2008

Guest Post: Paul Vidich on Digital Distribution of Short Stories

(Note: This post is in response to the Sept. 10 post, Mixed Books? Mixed Feelings, below.)

Paul Vidich left Time Warner in 2006 after 19 years as a senior executive in its AOL and Warner Music divisions, where he was executive vice-president in charge of worldwide strategy and business development. At Warner Music, he negotiated the first major label license agreement with Steve Jobs for iTunes, which set the precedent for Apple’s subsequent acquisition of music rights from the other music majors.
Vidich left Time Warner to pursue a career in writing and now attends the MFA program in creative writing at Rutgers-Newark. He is a board member of Poets & Writers and other cultural institutions. His short stories have been published in several online and print publications, including,, and

The nature of the Internet is that it doesn't respect forms that are tied to technologies that it makes irrelevant; the album was the creation of the long playing disc and then the CD--artists recorded albums to fill the space available. Of course, the artists who worked in the medium saw their collections as the work itself, and consumers didn't necessary agree. They often remembered or cared for one or two tracks.

The analogy to books only partly holds up. Certainly, the consumer will have the same desire to pick and choose digital stories according to preference, which threatens any collection or compilation. And to the extent that reduces the buying of traditional books it will change the book industry. On the other hand, many of the consumers who actually read (those important educated buyers of books) have not been sold yet on the value of a digitally distributed book. Many (most?) still like to own the physical product.

I suspect this may change over time. When that changes happens I doubt that consumers will buy digital stories with the purpose of downloading and printing them into custom collections. More likely they'll download, store on a drive, and print them individually as a convenience to read, as they would today with a magazine article. This whole area is quite fascinating and still in its early stages. My take is this: If the technology permits it and the consumer finds value in it, it will happen, industry/profits/intransigence/paranoia notwithstanding.