On Amateurs and User-Generated Content

In his controversial book The Cult of the Amateur: How blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the rest of today’s user-generated media are destroying our economy, our culture, and our values (affiliate link), Andrew Keen writes that  user-generated content is “destroying our economy, our culture, and our values.”

Don’t hold back, Mr. Keen. Tell us what you really think.

Is he right? Well, sort of. Read the book and judge for yourself, but there’s plenty of mediocre stuff out there. You’ve seen poorly shot movies and videos. You’ve come across poorly edited or laid out books. You’ve heard cacophony described as music. Finding low-quality content on the web isn’t terribly difficult to do.

Welcome to the Internet.

Now, I don’t fancy myself an expert on the music or movie businesses, but I do know a thing or two about publishing. I suspect that what I’m about to write applies equally to those two industries, though.

Just because the content is user-generated doesn’t mean that it’s crap.

There are some absolutely amazing books out there indistinguishable from–or even better than–those produced by traditional publishers. The question today is not whether a small publisher or independent author can produce a work of incredibly high quality. Today’s tools and technologies make that more than possible. The more relevant question is, “Will that publisher or author spend the time and money necessary to do just that?”

What do you think?

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