It's not that today's content is of significantly poorer quality. Most of it comes from the same people I would have read in print fifteen years ago, saying the same things (only more recently), in much the same way. I live with a certain amount of poor content, which i dismiss quickly, and I spend most of my days poring over very high quality content. The difference is not the quality. It's that it is cheaper to produce, it's easier to access, and there's so much more of it. That's what drives the cost down.
... You can say that "you ought to pay" or that you "deserve" to be paid as much as you want, but I am not forced to pay. ... The point is (and I hate to state it so harshly) is that I don't owe you a living, for the simply reason that I could not possibly pay all the people I would "owe a living" under such conditions. No, the relation between you and I has nothing to do with morality, no matter what the advocates of paid online services say. It is a purely market transaction: you offer to sell me a service at a price, I consider my options, and accept or decline.
Most anyone who wants to sell their creations eventually runs into some variant of this problem — they find that overwhelmingly, there's often no market for it, or the market is oversaturated with so many other people in the exact same position that there's no room to make a living doing it.
This is why, at bottom, I decided to keep my day job. Not because I don't think there's any money to be made in writing, but because the kind of money I would be making wouldn't allow anything like a decent living — unless I elected to do the kind of writing I didn't want to be doing. No faster way exists to end up hating the very thing you love.
To that end: I write for a living, but I don't write fiction for a living, and the kind of fiction I'd have to write in order to make a living doing it isn't the kind of fiction I want to have a hand in producing in the first place. There's books out there to be written that I suspect I'm the only one who can make happen, so pretending that I don't feel that way is a crime against myself.
Still, don't take this as me indicting those who do write such fiction for a living! You guys are hella lucky. But I'm not you, and I couldn't be you if I wanted to be.
But back to the main subject, which is the whole problem of wanting to produce something for which there is no workable market economy. Most of the time, I see talk of people modifying the market — something I mused about myself when I once discussed adopting a model closer to a museum than a supermarket. A nice idea, but what's more realistic in the short run is to find the right venue — and not as a permanent compromise, but more as a way to give the stuff some place to live while other changes are made over time. That venue may be very small, but at least it's some kind of venue, and better some feedback than none at all — even if all it does is convince you that a larger venue might be more useful for the sake of said feedback.
Ultimately, though, the world does not owe creative types a living — not yet, anyway. We don't live in such a world, and the only way to get there is by steps — and the "there" in question isn't even a destination but a direction. If the only short-term step to take is to change markets, re-think one's mode of living, or expend more energy to offer something all the more irresistible, maybe that's all we've got for now. Everything else is just rhetoric.
Other Lives Of The Mind