Those were the days

Back in the Paleolithic era of the World Wide Web—when Amazon sold just books and CDs and more than a few competitors did the same, when everyone used Netscape, when cell phones flipped  and could only talk to one another, and no one ever heard of Facebook, let alone tweets—I had a fairly high Internet profile as a writer (that’s what “content providers“ used to be called) for  various “e-publications” devoted mostly to science fiction and fantasy.  I reviewed books and video, interviewed authors, and occasionally pontificated on trends in the genre. I did this for a number of reasons:

  • I actually got paid, in many cases at the same rate or higher than a comparable print publication. Even if I didn’t get paid, it led to other compensated work.
  • I got tons of swag, free books (you know, those things with covers and paper in between that you don’t need a Kindle to look at ) well beyond what I was assigned to review. Once you made it onto a publisher’s reviewers list, you got deluged with their latest works (it was rare for a week to go by without a couple of new books in the mail), to the point where to this day I haven’t gotten around to reading them all (and, here was the one downside, many of which I had no interest in).
  • I had just finished graduate school, where my minor field of study was science fiction literature, and it seemed a way to stay active in the field and sidestep all the BS of academia.
  • This was before the terms “social” and “media” got put together, so a large Internet footprint was a good way to promote yourself.  A number of new opportunities came my way by virtue of someone stumbling across my byline on a website.
  • Did I mention I actually got paid? Not enough to pay the mortgage, but none of this "one cent a word” nonsense or, worse, “no pay but look at all the exposure you’ll get” so-called content providers today employ to exploit wanna-be authors. 

I was reminded of all this when one of the few remaining still active websites where I was once a frequent contributor  announced it could no longer adhere to the twice monthly publication schedule it established at its inception in 1997. Advertising revenues have declined and postal rates have risen to the point where it costs more to send books to reviewers than money they’re making!

For every Facebook, there are a thousand failures (hey, I can’t be the first one to think up a phrase like this, can I?).

Here’s a bit of personal nostalgia: the first piece I ever published on the Web, more than 15 years ago. Things sure have changed in the Internet landscape since then, not always for the better. Fifteen years from now I can’t imagine anyone thinking it worthwhile to note their first Twitter or Instagram post.

3820 red hill rd., charlottesville, va. 22903-7917   phone: 434.533.0580