Monday, December 01, 2008

Why "Free" Can Make Commercial Sense

Really good article by James Boyle on why free digital availability might make sense for parts of the publishing industry:

First, most people hate reading a book on a screen, but like finding out if it is worth buying. I am sure I have lost some sales, but my guess is that I have gained more new readers who otherwise would be unaware of my work, and who treat the digital version as a “sampler,” to which they then introduce others. This is a leap of faith but not an unreasonable one. Second, even professional authors make money in multiple ways other than by royalties - ranging from options on film production to commissions for magazine articles to consulting, teaching and speaker fees. Most are aided by wider exposure. As Doctorow says, “my biggest fear as an author isn’t illicit copying, it is obscurity.” Third, digital distribution is almost free. The “cost” is the gamble over lost sales, not remaindered books with their covers torn off. Some publishers are willing to take the risk to build current and future demand.

From Financial Times:
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