A number of things swimming in my mind today.

First, I read this article from BBC, speculating about robots writing novels. We already know that computers can and do generate news and sports stories–as well as children’s books. The latter are easy to pick out, because they’re generally assembled in China, feature licensed characters, and the sentences, while following the “subject verb object” format often don’t make either sense or story. And of course anyone who has cracked a book in the last five years won’t be able to help noticing that even Big 5 publishers seem to be trying to replace actual editors with a run through spell-check. And it shows. It really, really shows.

But does anyone aside from curmudgeons like me actually care?

I’ve been reading a novel from a well-known small publisher, and it’s breaking my heart. The story is outstanding. The characters are amazing.

The proofreading is appalling, to the point that it distracts me from the story. Of course the publisher already has my money, so what do they care? Pride in work? What’s that?

At the website of the publisher, who shall remain nameless, there is a job solicitation for proofreaders. The payment? A free copy of the e-book that they edited.

Yes, it all makes sense now.

I both edit and proofread. The last thing I want is a free copy of something that I’ve been laboring to bring to a publishable state–especially with no other compensation forthcoming. Nothing would make me care less about doing a thorough job. Literally nothing. This policy goes a long way toward explaining why shitty production values are such a stereotype in some circles.

This publisher currently has proofreader vacancies. Color me surprised.

A lot of people think “content should be free.” I’ve posted about this before, so I’ll let that poor, dead horse lie. A lot of people–enough people to support cheapshit bottom-of-the-barrel ebook production–apparently don’t mind a crap product if it’s cheap. Cheez Whiz for your brain.

I wonder how long before a computer can generate a novel that is sufficiently readable, and no one will pay authors at all?

Considering my knack for entering a profession just as it’s winking out, I’d imagine it won’t be long.

We get what we’re willing to pay for.