Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Past is Prologue: Oh How We've Changed Since 2001

"Hard to believe there was a time you could light up in a bar!"

It's a one of those existential Saturday mornings after a later night gig with The Blisterz, when I'm sitting at my writing desk, a little worn and torn from having only gone to bed a few hours ago and back up pretty much with the sunlight as its rays sneak their way into my bedroom through the cracks in the shades. It's been a monumental week in that we got Osama. It took us ten years but, like everyone like's to put it, "We got him."

That said, I'm not about to get into some political OBL thing. He was a cold blooded killer who committed mass murder in the name of God, and the world is a better place without him. What I'm thinking about is how so much the world as we knew it has changed in the past decade.

Curiously, back then, I used to smoke cigs, and I can recall sitting in a bar in New York with my then editor while we smoked and drank. GODCHILD had just been released for the first time, so I was still in a hopeful of its success, and we were still young enough that we could party into the early hours of the next morning. Since that time, smoking has been banned in public places in New York, and I in turn quit the cancer sticks almost six years ago now, and I can no longer party in the early hours.

I remember enjoying long jogs on the East River back then (I used to stay at the Gramercy Park Hotel located nearby back when it was still an inexpensive European style hotel). In those days you'd see all the joggers with portable CD players strapped to their waists and the headphones in their ears. The players, though small were cumbersome and sometimes it was easier to hold it in your hand while you ran. Now the CD player is a dinosaur while MP3 players, Ipods, and Smartphones give you a million choices in songs all packaged in a far smaller, far more lightweight, portable music distribution system.

Back then, I only took my laptop with me on my travels when it was necessary. The laptop of 2001 was thick, and heavy, and the battery hardly ever worked for more than an hour. Plus you needed to carry an external floppy drive. Now laptops are practically credit card thin and some batteries last up to eight hours. Or you can simply go for the mini-laptop, which is great to travel with (I wrote all my dispatches from Africa with one). Floppy disks? Huh?

Almost every weekend back in 2001, I would rent movies from the Hollywood video. Or the Blockbuster. Often times we wouldn't bring the VHS cassette tapes back on time and we'd be hit up with a late fee. The video stores are gone now, since you can order what you want, when you want on Netflix and similar online sites, and no longer do you have to put up with that tiny Monday morning annoyance of seeing the tape rental sitting out on top of the kitchen table.

If I drove down to New York from Albany, which I often did since gas was around $1.50 per gallon, I'd bring along a bunch of CDs. Those are gone now too since you can plug your Ipod into the dash and rock your socks out on whatever you want. Back in 2001 I had a combination CD/Cassette player in my new Jeep. You might still be able to find CDs, but not cassettes. The CDs of course, have to be ordered online since the record store has disappeared since 2001.

In our travels, I usually carried books, or bought books at my destination. Back then, I never would have imagined the demise of the bookstore, but as of this writing, I can recall more bookstores that have closed than I can the ones that remain open. These include bookstores that I have signed my own published books at. Now, Borders is gone and Barnes and Nobles is right behind them. How are people reading my bestselling books, like THE INNOCENT and THE REMAINS nowadays? Via E-Readers like the Kindle and the Nook. They're also getting their newspaper and magazine fixes from these E-readers while some people just choose to do it all on their IPads. Oh yeah, did I mention that newsprint newspapers used to be state-of-the-art back in 2001?

I'm still thinking about how it seems like only yesterday I was having that drink with my then editor in New York where I used to be published. Well, that publishing house is gone now. Technically it's there in name, but it was swallowed up in a corporate consolidation that left a lot of editors and authors unemployed. I was one of them. So was my editor. My then agent is gone too, along with his agency; along with a lot of literary agencies. They're just not that necessary anymore. Like the cassette tape and Hollywood Video, they are becoming obsolete.

Likewise, over the last ten years the big legacy publishers in New York have begun to see their power over authors and what they deem salable diminish due to the influx of indie presses like StoneHouse/StoneGate Ink, and/or the acceptance of self-publishing via Kindle, as legitimate. The publishing world is in the midst of a revolution that's giving way to a golden age for authors. Good authors. Something I never would have believed back in 2001. Established blockbuster authors like James Frey and Barry Eisler now self-publish their work.

I don't self-publish, but these days I publish my material through an indie press, and it's proved to be one of the best career moves I could have ever made since 2001. This weekend, I'll make more profit from online E-book sales than I did in all of 2001. In one week, I'll make more in E-book royalties than I did in all of 2002 and 2003 combined. In a month I will make more than the average New York Legacy Publisher "Nice" advance. In one year, it's possible I will make more money as an indie published author than the Governor of New York State.

A lot has changed in the past ten years, much of which none of us saw coming. Some people are still ignoring the writing on the wall. They believe the E-Book will just be a fad. They want to smell and feel a "real book" in their hands. Well, I've got news for you, the "smell" they are always referring too is also long gone. So is "that feel." In the years since 2001, paper book publishers have, for the most part, switched over to a far cheaper paper stock. It was a cost conscious move. That cheap paper no longer has that feel and the smell of the old quality printed books we used to know and love back when 8-track cassette tapes were all the rage.

It's 2011. The monster that was OBL is dead and gone. So is much of the way we lived our life back in the earliest years of this new century. Something tells me that the next ten years will bring even more astounding change, and that much of it will be good for those who embrace it, and bad for those who insist on living in the past.



  1. Eh, what the hell. We all get older. The facade of the world keeps changing. That's life.

  2. It's funny when you talk about "lighting up in a bar" how that one sentence can mean something totally different. Cause for me I remember lighting up a cig, taking a few puffs, gulping a shot, taking another drag sitting it in the ashtray by my tower of empty shot glasses pushing up my boobs and heading back to the dance floor. I guess we didn't frequent the same bars.

  3. It's getting so I need a motion sickness pill to look at a CALENDAR!!! All that in TEN YEARS?!?!