martes, 24 de abril de 2007

Free Distribution

The one problem I’ve had with the distribution of everything on the Internet has been: how does anyone make any money off of all this? I never pay for anything that I get off the internet. I also never pay attention to advertisements on websites so I don’t see how anyone is making money that way either. The thought came to me after reading a post by Chris Anderson entitled, Ebooks want to be free. What about audio books? Feb 4, 2007. Talking about his book, The Long Tail, being pirated, he says, “My publishers want to make money, and I like them so I usually do what it takes to keep them happy, but in truth I just want to be read/listened to by the largest number of people. Leave it to me to figure out how to convert that reputational currency into cash--just get me in front of the biggest audience and I'll do the rest. My agent doesn't want to hear this, but I'd rather take a smaller up-front advance or lower royalties in exchange for more liberty in distributing free versions, because I think I'll actually be better off in the end.” What does he mean when he says, “just get me in front of the biggest audience and I'll do the rest?” What is he going to do? Because up until now I have read his book, his blog and anything else I can find that he has done and I have yet to pay one red cent. As I looked more into this I discovered that there are some advantages to distributing your stuff for free like more publicity, word of mouth and making revenues in different ways. But from my point of view I would say making money by giving it away is still a long shot. The more stuff is given away for free on the internet, the more people avoid buying the real thing, expecting it to come out for free at some point on the internet anyway. Whenever I hear about anything that has come out I always search for it online first to see if it is out there for free somewhere. And if its not I’m patient enough until it is.
“Free ideas spread faster than expensive ones,” says Seth Godlin in his post called You should write an ebook March 28 2007. Explaining how his first ebook, Unleashing the Idea Virus came about, he says, “I brought it to my publisher and said, "I'd like you to publish this, but I want to give it away on the net." They passed. They used to think I was crazy, but now they were sure of it. So I decided to just give it away. The first few days, the book was downloaded 3,000 times. The next day, the number went up. And then up. Soon it was 100,000 and then a million. The best part of all is that I intentionally made the file small enough to email. Even without counting the folks who emailed it hundreds of times to co-workers, it's easily on more than 2,000,000 computers. I didn't ask anything in return. No centralized email tool. Here it is. Share it. Some will ask, "how much money did you make?" And I think a better question is, "how much did it cost you?" How much did it cost you to write the most popular ebook ever and to reach those millions of people and to do a promotion that drove an expensive hardcover to #5 on Amazon and #4 in Japan and led to translation deals in dozens of countries and plenty of speaking gigs? It cost nothing.” So with this story it looks like giving away your stuff for free serves as a marketing and publicity tool. Bands also use this technique by giving away their music for free and making the profit at the live shows.
Cory Doctorow wrote an article for entitled Giving It Away, where he explains in more detail how profit can be made from giving your books away on the internet. “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.” Many people aren’t going to buy your stuff anyway so you might as well give it to them for free; people like me who are moochers who never buy anything until it is made for free.
The most important thing that an author can have is the peers of others recommending their book. Doctorow continues, “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.” That is a main advantage that free distribution provides-people are a lot more likely to buy something from a peers recommendation than from a companies.
“Having my books more widely read opens many other opportunities for me to earn a living from activities around my writing, such as the Fulbright Chair I got at USC this year, this high-paying article in Forbes, speaking engagements and other opportunities to teach, write and license my work for translation and adaptation. My fans' tireless evangelism for my work doesn't just sell books--it sells me.”
So up until now I may not have paid anything for all the entertainment that I get off of the internet, but I am a fan of some people that I wasn’t a fan of before the internet made it possible for me to discover them. Possibly in the future if they offer something like an event that can’t be ripped, pirated or distributed for free, perhaps then I will end up paying them something. But who knows when or if that ever that will happen.

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