Ok, this topic doesn’t directly apply to writing, but I’ll bring it round. I’m going to pre-emptively call this out as a long-winded rant in the making. Bare with me.
To start off, I’m not talking specifically about the game “Monopoly” as much as I’m talking about what it represents in the real world. It is a small-scale version of the capitalist society in which we live, in all its flaws and failings. Let’s look at the game.
The person with the most money holds all the swing. This would be fair enough if everyone were in contention to be the highest bidder, but even three or four corporate fat cats can crush the poor man, given enough time. When things break down, one man rules the boardgame and everyone else is sleeping in the gutters tonight.
It doesn’t matter if a person plays fair or not, the game goes to the highest bidder. It’s about greed. Now, I’m a writer. It’s a path I chose. The prospect of fame and fortune at the drop of a hat is extremely unlikely, and I’ve submitted to the fact that I probably won’t live in a mansion, have a supermodel wife, or drive a billion dollar rocket car that can fly and float on water and shoot laser beams from its headlights and cook me breakfast in the morning. I don’t think I could live like that. Anyway, here’s the basics of how the economy works: You’ve got supply and demand. If something is in high demand, the supply needs to match it. If the demand is down, and the market is flooded with shit we don’t need, it trickles down the businesses until the bottom-line employees suffer for it. And the blame lies not with the suppliers for creating too much useless junk, it lies with you, the consumer, for not spending enough money to spread about the economy.
Getting your value for money is a thing of the past. It’s so shit, but it is what it is. Companies compete against companies, and it’s at this level where the monopolies come into play. You know, the word “monopoly” isn’t just a name for a board game. A dictionary definition of monopoly is the “exclusive control of a commodity or service in a particular market, or a control that makes possible the manipulation of prices.” If you own all the major media outlets, you can control what is being said, you can charge what you want for advertising, because there aren’t any other options.
The only way for the consumer to win is if they put the blame back on the supplier. No demand, no market, the monopoly shifts to accomodate for what the consumer wants. Or you could always provide your own services to a smaller market where the focus is not on how much money you can squeeze from the petty consumers, but how much of the market you can steal from the guy with the monopoly by actually giving people what they want.
Maybe I’m just cynical from working in retail for a few years now, but really, some businesses are just shitting on the people who line their pockets with the green stuff. If you look at the whole brand-war between Apple and Microsoft, you’ll probably see there are assholes on both sides of the fence calling the shots. iPods are designed to be used with iTunes, where you’re supposed to buy and download music off the Apple store. It’s the given thing. Sure, there are other online music stores, but iTunes has flooded the market and thus they were able to apply DRM to their music so that they control when and where you can play your music. Granted, I have an iPod and I use iTunes, and I’m happy with them, but if they were so inclined, they could jack up the prices of their music, charge a fee for software updates, and I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.
Now, this brings me to the topic of eBooks.
eReaders are fantastically frustrating. If you buy anything off Amazon, you either need a Kindle or kindle software on your computer or portable device. So you’re stuffed if you have an eReader that isn’t a Kindle and you want to buy something on Amazon. But the thing is, it’s a relatively new market, so what’s going on is that several other companies that hold a share in the ebook market have brought out their own eReaders that are designed to work specifically for their website, their ebook formats. They’re all competing for the monopoly over the market and none of them are willing to adapt to each other’s formats and technologies. The only way for the consumer to win is if they just download various eReader programs for their computer or phones and forget getting an eReader until the market becomes compatible.
I got an eReader for Christmas, and it’s alright. I’ve read a couple of books on it, and I don’t completely hate the idea of reading off a screen on a small, hand held device. But it’s not a Kindle. It’s not a Nook or a Kobo or whatever the fuck Sony called theirs. And thus I can’t buy anything off Amazon to read on it, and I think this is the case with several other major ebook retailers. I’ll come right out and say it. I think it’s fucking disgusting. It’s greedy and stupid for any one company to think they have the right to buy out the entire ebook market over another company. I’m just glad they’ve started making their ebooks available on phones through free software. Hopefully it’s a sign that this shit will settle down soon.
I’m pretty sure Amazon’s going to win the market, considering they have a wide range and decent prices. I think there still needs to be some improvement on the prices, but I think part of that is the publishers’ fault. I know a lot of small press authors have their ebooks set around $2-5 as opposed to $10-20. If you can buy the real book for a couple of bucks more, the decision is pretty much a no-brainer. Why should people pay so much for something that’s just a digital version of something physical. Same with mp3s priced against physical CDs. I still buy CDs because I can still get them for $10-20, which is around the same as what I’d be paying for the downloads anyway.
It shows two possible things about the suppliers: that they either don’t know/understand the market at all, or that they don’t care. I personally believe it’s the latter, because it supports the idea in my head that the modern day big businessman is a greedy, profiteering son-of-a-bitch.
Well, at least I’ve chosen my path. I just want to provide people with quality, entertaining, and at times, confrontational writing at an affordable and fair price. That’s why I’m keen on small publishers and literary zines. It’s not about pulling a fast one over the people that make you rich, it’s about earning your money.