Sunday, April 27, 2008

Free your mind

Stephen Poole has written about his own experiment with making his work available on the web. The whole article is worth a read (as are many of the comments), but here's a precis:

At the end of last year, I decided to give away my book, Trigger Happy, in DRM-free .pdf format. I called it 'a kind of experiment'. Thirty thousand downloads later and counting, it’s time to collate the lab results.

More people got Trigger Happy from this website than ever bought a copy of the printed book. The interest shown in an eight-year-old book about videogames by people as far afield as Brazil and Russia has been immensely gratifying.

My book was converted to be readable on the Nintendo DS; and the Nebraska Library Commission made a spiral-bound printed copy for their collection. Links to the download attracted a lot of attention to this site, and in December there was even an article about the book published in the French newspaper Libération.

I put a PayPal button below the download. The proportion of people who left a tip after downloading Trigger Happy was 1 in 1,750, or 0.057%.

If the advocates of “the free distribution of ideas” are serious, they need either a) to come up with a realistic proposal as to how I am to keep feeding myself while giving the fruits of my labours away for free; or b) come out and say honestly that they don’t think any such thing as a 'professional writer' ought to exist, and that I should just get a job like anyone else.

A lot of people paid for the Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails albums even though it was also rapidly possible to download pirated versions for free. But perhaps that was because they were already Radiohead and NIN fans. Will as many people choose to pay for something they don’t have to pay for, when it’s a question of taking a punt on a new artist?

Thanks to Conrad for the link

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you are looking at this all wrong?

People still take a chance on new authors, musicians, directors, etc. everyday with their money. Perhaps the reason why you had so many downloads wasn't mostly caused by starting to offer it for free, but because your advertising wasn't adequate before?

I would have offered the first half of your book for free with the ability to buy the second half. Or perhaps do a sequel after this book to bank off of all the publicity from this one. The reason you received so many downloads was that now you were accessing your niche market due to the content of your book.