Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On lessons learned from DUNE

Paul Mu'ad Dib Atreides once said in the book, DUNE: “The spice must flow.” This is very true for that universe. Everything turned around the spice melange. Ships traveled through space by it, blood rushed through the veins by it, the Reverend Mothers manipulated family lines by it, Paul could see the future because of it. It was the lifeblood of the universe and without it everything would grind to a halt. Everything.

And with this backdrop I started thinking about what was going on in the publishing industry in this day and age. Everyone is talking about new business models and how the big publishing houses are retooling themselves. But in the book, DUNE everything was run by huge imperial family houses that called the shots across the universe because there was never any threat to something so ubiquitous as the spice. It continued to flow, the houses continued to rule with an iron, uncaring hand and the Fremen, the people of Arrakis, the home-world of the spice, were under their iron thumb.

Sounds familiar doesn't it?

I was thinking about it one night and I came to the conclusion that literature, writing, is the spice melange. The product that pours out of the fertile minds of the writers the world over flows into the minds of readers who then visualize it, they make movies of it, Broadway plays, and television shows. Stories and characters are potent melange that the entertainment world spins madly around. And if writing is the spice then writers are the Fremen. And as with the Fremen writers were abused and exploited by the huge publishing houses that ruled the universe for decades.

But like DUNE, like Arrakis, Paul Mu'ad Dib arrived and changed everything. He took the spice from the great houses and gave it back to the Fremen. He emancipated the people and gave them back the true power of the universe. The Houses did not do anything but exploit and use their abundant riches to transport and distribute the spice. They did little more than that.

The Internet has become Paul Mu'ad Dib. And an emancipation has occurred. Now the Fremen can pass the spice directly to the people. And the great houses, as in the book, become irrelevant. All power fell backwards atop Arrakis, and so too does all power return to the Internet. The Internet, and these start up companies that distribute e-books, and Print on Demand services will be the new channel that people will go to for their books and reading entertainment. If the publishing houses don't see this, they need to read DUNE.

The spice must flow, and the literature must do the same. But a new path is opening, emancipation, and the true winners will be the Fremen, the writers, and the true losers will be those that ruled them with an iron fist.

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