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The Internet

On being a consumer vs. being a creator

So yeah, the iPad has dropped, and it’s caused the obligatory storm of reaction all over the Net. Cory Doctorow in particular, I noted, had a very passionate post up on boingboing about why he’s not going to buy an iPad and why he thinks the rest of us shouldn’t either. Now, most of his arguments I’m not going to touch upon, but one thing I did want to mention was something I’ve seen brought up quite a bit elsewhere.

Which is to say, objections to the iPad on the grounds that it’s intended for people who want it to consume content, rather than create it.

And with all due respect, folks, I have to call bullshit on this on two grounds.

The first is that I’ve already heard people who’ve bought iPads geeking out about starting to write and do other creative tasks on them; , for example, I saw saying something about getting a wireless keyboard talking to hers. Related to this, speaking as someone who’s done a fair bit of writing on her iPhone, I can say right now without even having touched an actual iPad myself that I could write on one, too, if I wanted to. Sure, it’s being marketed with the overall idea of “look at how many shiny things you can watch or read on this, ain’t that neat?” But the point is, anybody who puts their mind to it can probably very quickly figure out how to make the device let them get some work done on it. Maybe not up to the same standards they could on other devices–and maybe those other devices let them get the job done better, which is why they prefer them. That’s fine, that’s not the part I take issue with.

Which leads me to my second point.

More than once I’ve seen this notion of “oh, the device is only meant to consume content, not create it”, presented in such a way that it somehow implies that consuming content is bad. This too is bullshit, and here’s why: there’s not a one of us who isn’t a consumer of content at some point. Every last one of us. We fling links to YouTube videos around. We all read blogs and online news. We laugh ourselves silly at pictures of funny cats. Even those of us who ostensibly fall into the “creative” camp gobble up our share of the content, and we all have our days when we’re consuming more content than we’re actually creating.

You know what, though? I think a lot of us creative types sometimes forget that the “consumers” are in fact the ones that we want buying our content. It’s easy to sneer at a device that’s only intended to let its user watch or read, but what about when the material being watched and read is something created by you?

“But Anna,” I hear you saying, “we’re only sneering at the people who let the content passively come to them and don’t let their imaginations be sparked by it!”

Again I say, bullshit. How can we know who’s going to be reading our books or listening to our songs at any given time? How can we predict how our work will engage them? What if a reader is a very quiet and private person who doesn’t feel the need to share with others how our work may have affected them, and just wants to keep the couple of hours of pleasure we may have given them to themselves, as a nice little experience they have to savor? Not everybody is an extroverted fan who will feel up to writing fanfic about our work, or composing filk, or jumping onto every forum or mailing list they’re on and gushing all about how awesome we are. Not everybody has the same creative spark we do.

And I really, seriously think that we creative types need to remember that. We need to remember that it’s okay if someone just wants to kick back for an hour or two and enjoy the content we’ve created without any expectations of how they should engage with it. We are, after all, hoping to entertain them. Let’s let them be entertained, okay?

And let’s let them do it on any devices they damn well please. If anybody out there is reading Faerie Blood or Defiance on an iPad, more power to you, and I thank you for your support!