Whither the paycheck in the digital age?

There’s money to be made in the digital age, the big question is whether it will be made by just a few.

Of course there has been a lot of discussion in recent years about the decline of newspapers. But we’ve also been losing the small mom and pop businesses, the brick and mortar bookstores, and the big, traditional department stores are going the way of the mammoth.

Take a look at this excellent piece in The Atlantic on the shifting patterns of retail sales. There has been a dramatic decline of department stores, new car dealerships, music stores, book stores, novelty shops — while online shopping and the Walmart-type super centers are taking over.

Sears, which invited mail order shopping as pretty much the Amazon of the American pioneer, is in such sad shape that it is cutting health care benefits for its retirees. J.C. Penny excited the stock market merely by cutting its losses.

In the publishing industry, ebook sales have flattened out. For authors, that might mean more publishers will not have the first knee-jerk reaction of: We can do it as an ebook. (Note: Authors usually make more money off of hardbacks.) But bookstore sales also are down. Barnes & Noble may be on the verge of a comeback, but only because it dumped the Nook e-reader and partnered with Google. But while chains like B&N did a pretty good job of driving independent booksellers into the lake, this move to online book buying may be good for the independents, if for no other reason than bibliophiles love holding the physical book.

I could keep going on CDs, musicians, newspapers, etc. But I think you get the drift. The Internet is great for musicians who want to get around the corporate suits, or the writer who just wants the world to see their art or experience their personal anguish. The problem is how will people in the future make a living doing these kinds of things that they love.