Cory Doctorow is a prolific author and runs the most popular blog on the planet: BoingBoing. He’s also been challenging the publishing industry traditions with his writing. I still haven’t read any of his books, but I should. Forbes as an interview with him where he talks about giving the milk away for free, but still getting people to buy the cow. (via Gaping Void)
I’m a believer that Digital Rights Management (copyright protection) is horribly flawed. By trying control every aspect of the consumer experience, content publishers are shooting themselves in the foot. Watching a copied DVD is a better experience because you can remove the “forced to watch” trailers at the beginning. Theatre goers are confronted with a “copying is stealing” message even though they’re the only customers who are guaranteed to have paid for the experience.
Movie theatre advertisement: Copying is stealing!
Movie theatre patron: I shelled out $10 bones so that you can call me a thief?
Digital music/video downloads are even worse. Even if you already own the record/CD/DVD/VHS you have to pay for a digital copy that can only be played with approved software (iTunes) and devices (iPods). Want to play your legitimate iTunes music with your Zune or Xbox 360? Tough luck. Oh, and you’ll have to buy all your movies again once we finally standardize to HD-DVD or Blueray.
I am a strong supporter of the local library. There are numerous cases where I’ve become a fan and a customer of an author because I can “try” an author without having to walk into a book store and invest money. With digital content, a friend can easily give me a copy of an album, a comic book series, a movie, or an entire run of a TV series. If I like it, they’ve now increased their fan base by one. More than one actually, as I’m the kind of person who will evangelize a product.
As a content producer, obscurity is more likely to affect your bottom line than piracy.
From the Forbes article:
I’ve been giving away my books ever since my first novel came out, and boy has it ever made me a bunch of money.
When my first novel […] was published by Tor Books in January 2003, I also put the entire electronic text of the novel on the Internet [… and] encouraged my readers to copy it far and wide. Within a day, there were 30,000 downloads from my site (and those downloaders were in turn free to make more copies). Three years and six printings later, more than 700,000 copies of the book have been downloaded from my site.
Most people who download the book don’t end up buying it, but they wouldn’t have bought it in any event, so I haven’t lost any sales, I’ve just won an audience. A tiny minority of downloaders treat the free e-book as a substitute for the printed book–those are the lost sales. But a much larger minority treat the e-book as an enticement to buy the printed book. They’re gained sales. As long as gained sales outnumber lost sales, I’m ahead of the game. After all, distributing nearly a million copies of my book has cost me nothing.
The thing about an e-book is that it’s a social object. It wants to be copied from friend to friend, beamed from a Palm device, pasted into a mailing list. It begs to be converted to witty signatures at the bottom of e-mails. It is so fluid and intangible that it can spread itself over your whole life. Nothing sells books like a personal recommendation–when I worked in a bookstore, the sweetest words we could hear were “My friend suggested I pick up….” The friend had made the sale for us, we just had to consummate it. In an age of online friendship, e-books trump dead trees for word of mouth.
>> Read the rest of the Forbes Article