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The Media

Sharing Doesn't Hurt 266

Freeptop writes "Here's a fun followup to an old slashdot article: Eric Flint just posted another Prime Palaver article on the Baen Free Library. In this article of his, he talks about the effects of posting his books for free on the library. Specifically, he uses his own royalty statements to show that sales for his books have gone up whenever he has made them available for free. As usual, Mr. Flint writes a well thought out article demonstrating the pointlessness of encrypting e-books, and this time, he has proof to back up his assumptions."
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Sharing Doesn't Hurt

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  • Imagine that! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kgarcia ( 93122 ) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @06:41PM (#3361929) Homepage
    You provide your customers with a free, easy (and legal) way of previewing your products, and they feel compelled to buy them. Who would have thought?
    • What would happen if the preview were as good as the for-sale product?

      Dead-tree books are still a first-rate display technology. If reading on the web were as portable and easy, I wonder if there'd still be a boost in sales.
      • Re:Imagine that! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jason Earl ( 1894 )

        I am rather new to this whole e-book technology (I have only had my visor for a couple of months), but I have pretty much decided that dead-tree editions have gone the way of the dodo for me. I like reading on my visor. My visor is much lighter than a hardback, the display is comfortable, and with a sprinboard Compact Flash adaptor I can carry around a ridiculous amount of books.

        That being said I still think that Baen has the right idea. I hadn't ever read anything by Eric Flint, and now I am completely hooked. Unfortunately, you can't simply download the latest two books in the Belisaurius series. You have to purchase them. In fact, you can't even purchase them outright. You have to purchase a set of four e-books for the princely sum of $10. Even if I don't like any of the other books that's a pretty good deal. It's certainly worth being able to carry the entire series around with me without looking like a doofus. And by bundling the books this way Baen might get me hooked on another of their authors.

        That's what I want, and I am not paying for anything less. I am willing to rely on Project Gutenberg, individual authors, and Baen until the rest of the publishers figure that out.

      • Very true. I think his point is valid in the context of book publishing, but I think his attempts to generalize to the music industry don't have sufficent basis.

        I also wonder what his attitude would be if, for instance, Ace started publishing paperbacks of one of the books he's put up at the Free Library for $1 less than Baen and not paying him any royalties.
        • You don't think there's significant brand loyalty when it comes to music? I disagree. With music there is even more of a "human face" to relate to. You can see Ozzy puttering around with the kids and relate a lot better to him as someone trying to make a living, rather than other product that may only be tied to a nameless-faceless-megacorp.

          Many of us would just rather not contribute to the RIAA senatorial bribery fund.
        • Re:Imagine that! (Score:3, Insightful)

          by NoData ( 9132 )
          I also wonder what his attitude would be if, for instance, Ace started publishing paperbacks of one of the books he's put up at the Free Library for $1 less than Baen and not paying him any royalties.

          Providing a sample of art for FREE is very different than profiteering off of somebody else's work. This is one of TWO (and only two) circumstances where I think copyright law has any legitimacy. 1) you shouldn't be allowed to make money on someone else's back. 2) you shouldn't misrepresent a piece of work (e.g. as your own, a manipulated version as the author's, etc.)
      • Re:Imagine that! (Score:2, Interesting)

        by packeteer ( 566398 )
        personally i really like having a huge collection of books... i like having multiple book shelves lined with paper books... i love to browse through and feel them... I am a very spacially oriented person and i love the physical book... that said i also hate losing things... i hate it when a book deteriorates or is lost... i think that the best possible thing to do would be to include the ebooks with the REAL books... that way i can archive my books and have the benefit of being able to carry 1000 books with me at all times but i could also have the REAL THING... this might be expensive becuase smart cards or some other type of technology would add some cost to the book so here is my idea... a publisher could print the ebook format on the inside of the cover or (because covers break off) on one of the pages... maybe using some type of cd style grooves or credit card style magnetic tape the entire contents could be printed on a small erea of one page... it would be fairly easy to create a reader for this type of book and would notbe very expensive becuase there would only be a few megs at most of data... and if you get into picture books then maybe jpeg2000 will help :)... if a cd of an ebook were included it would defeat the perpose, as in my system the ebook would always be included... anyway just a thought...
        anybody know af any possible technology to make this work? any problems with this idea... please reply...
        thanks
    • Yea, who would have?! Who would have thought that you can go to the bookstore and *gasp* read through the book before you purchase it?! Who would have though that bookstores would setup tables where you can partake in such a ground-breaking activity? Gee Whiz.
    • You provide your customers with a free, easy (and legal) way of previewing your products, and they feel compelled to buy them

      Can someone please tell Porsche that?

      I would not mind a free, easy (and legal) way to preview the boxster [porsche.com] Porsche for a (few years).

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Well, except for the few years part, there already is a free, easy, and legal way to preview the boxster. I believe they call it a test drive.
  • So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sean23007 ( 143364 ) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @06:42PM (#3361932) Homepage Journal
    Why? In most cases, simply because they don't really know anything about the writer and aren't willing to spend $7 to $28 just to experiment. So, they keep buying those authors they are familiar with.

    But wait- that means that authors would have to start... writing better... what about... how come....? Pffft, all this "library" does is promote healthy competition and publicize good works by unknown authors, which effectively ruins the monopoly held by the big names in the business. So actually, this library with its free postings does lower sales... of works that aren't as good.
  • by iansmith ( 444117 ) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @06:44PM (#3361942) Homepage
    I have been a subsriber at Baen for almost two years now. It's great to get books before they are published, cheaper than for paper, and I always have something to read (with my PDA).

    They need more press, I can't think of any other publisher that has done as much to promote unencrypted and even free ebooks.
  • by Sc00ter ( 99550 ) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @06:44PM (#3361946) Homepage
    That unlike most consumer goods, like VCRs or portable radios, is that when you don't like them within 30 days you bring them back to the store and get a refund (most of the time). Sure, there's sometimes conditions, like you have to keep the box, but that's reasonable.

    Why is this not true for books/cds/software, because they assume that you copied them. This is what needs to change. If I hear a song on the radio that I like, go and buy the CD and the whole rest of the CD sucks, then I should be able to bring it back to the store and get a refund.

    • Why is this not true for books/cds/software, because they assume that you copied them. This is what needs to change. If I hear a song on the radio that I like, go and buy the CD and the whole rest of the CD sucks, then I should be able to bring it back to the store and get a refund.

      This point is quite valid as far as music and software are concerned. My experience with books, however, has been that most stores are quite willing to accept returns. In the past few years, I've returned several books to stores such as Walden's and Barnes & Nobles, and they were more than happy to give me store credit. Not quite a refund, but better than the "exchange for same item only" policy of music and software.

      Even better, in most cases the reciept was not required as long as the book was in very good condition. I've often wondered if people take advantage of this and use B&N as a personal library. I've gotten too attached to my paperbooks, though. ;)

      random

      • e take advantage of this and use B&N as a personal library. I

        People do this. It came up on the "Living below your means" board on the Motley Fool. There was a huge debate (flamefest) over whether it was ethical.
    • I've got a friend who has the balls to regularly take CDs back saying, "I didn't like it" ... he's a jazz fan, goes to a jazz store to buy his CDs, where they are quite happy for you to listen to it a bit before you buy it, and he gets away with it.

      Armed with this presumption, he also gets away with it in mainstream stores, too... since his mental attitude is "why not?", they don't seem to argue with him.

  • Heh.. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Astralwerks [astralwerks.com] figured this out a long time ago . Matador [matadorrecords.com] seems to have figured it out a little more recently.

    I really wish there were some sorts of vague estimates on the level of record sales that can be attributed directly to the "here are some URLs where you can download full realaudio tracks and/or music videos from albums we just released" mailing list that Astralwerks has been running for .. hm.. i don't remember how long exactly, but it's at *least* five or six years now... even if the number reached for that estimate was totally baseless, it would be really fun if the number started showing up in news articles about "mp3 is ruining record companies profits!" or "software piracy, which is no more prevalent than it was in 1983, is ruining software companies profits!" or whatever, as a little side note "Astralwerks records estimates that their yearly profits are x percent higher as a result of the fact they give some amount approaching half of everything they publish away for free.."
  • by d.valued ( 150022 ) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @06:45PM (#3361951) Journal
    ..there is a CRUCIAL difference between what this author did, the Smashing Pumpkins asked for on "Machina 2: The Machines of the Gods" (their last album which was released as 50 acetates to good friends and one Chicago radio station which MP#'d it and let it roll), the way the Grateful Dead dealt with bootlegs (trade 'em, don't sell 'em I think was the gist of it) and what a lot of file-traders do with Metallica, Boobie Spears, et al.

    This guy owned the copyright to his works and chose to share. I like that. Now, the labels and/or the artists (depending on who owns the copyright) chose NOT to share.

    Now, I've never used any such services, mainly because, quite frankly, most US music sucks thanks to the fact we have only five real record labels, and I prefer my criminality to be more significant, like d/l'ing DeCSS or otherwise defeating copyright controls.
    • Bootlegs are illegal by nature, something being distributed that should not be. The Dead did not condone bootlegs. They let people tape their concerts, and distribute and trade those recordings free of charge.

      (no hyperlinks for the goat-weary)
      GD's taping policy: http://www.dead.net/hotline_info/NEW_DOCUMENTS/tra ding/

      A great source of related information: htttp://www.etree.org/legal.html
    • by pagsz ( 450343 ) <pagsz81@yahoo.com> on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @07:23PM (#3362140) Journal
      Point well taken. There certainly is a difference between an artist offering up his/her works and having them forcibly taken.

      However, this article points to the stupidity of the publishing industry (and by extension, the MPAA/RIAA)rather than the illegality of services like Napster.

      File-sharing could be a boon to these guys if they would just pull their heads out of their asses. Rather than hurting sales, file sharing has been demonstrated to help it (small sample, but it's certainly far more evidence than the MPAA or RIAA can provide). Instead, they push for anti-copying legislation (CBDTPA).

      It's just so pathetically ironic: in their attempts to stop piracy, they push more people into seeking illegal alternatives (who wants to pay $30 for a crippled CD when the good tracks are available online for free; no encryption is uncrackable).

      And the very thing that they're fighting is the one thing that could save them. As I see it, the internet will leave them in the dust if they don't stop fighting it. Non-mainstream, quality artists will begin bypassing the MPAA/RIAA for internet alternatives. Then things will change.

      Aw, hell, who am I kidding? A CBDTPA type-bill will pass, and free will equal illegal.

      Extreme optimism and extreme pessimism in the same post? I better get my head checked, I may have schizophrenia,

    • I think Smashing Pumpkins only released 12 master copies of "Machina 2", not 50.
    • The WHOLE POINT of copyright is to share.

      Copyright draws it's justification for existence not for some notion that authors have some property right, or some right to make a profit but from the expectation that the PUBLIC DOMAIN will be enriched.

      That is something that should not be casually swept under the rug as media conglomerates would like.
      • In the beginning, copyright was created as a sort of an agreement; in exchange for protection of a limited time (originally 14 years), the author had a protected right to profit from his/her work. This is similar to patents.

        Also similar to patent protection, copyright was intended as a defensive measure. I doubt that the framers of the Constitution intended for America to be so goddamned litigious. Copyrights and patents have been perverted into an offensive weapon, q.v. the DMCA. (Why do you think the GPL includes the patent clause?)

        (plug)
        I'd say join GeekPAC, because I am. Enough voices together drown a concert.
        (/plug)

  • by Omerna ( 241397 ) <clbrewer@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @06:47PM (#3361967) Homepage
    I imagine it'll be something about how it doesn't matter what happens for BOOKS, and how they plan to keep trying to shut down all the file sharing programs anyway. Afterall, ACTUAL profit is less important than the CONCEPT that you're giving away your product (intellectual property, you know) to whoever wants it.

    How many times will this have to be proven before somebody (other then /.ers) gets it?
  • He, the content producer, has chosen to share his copyrighted material.
  • by AKAJack ( 31058 ) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @06:48PM (#3361980)
    I mean, the sample size is pretty small - one book. It's promising to see this happening, but I hesitate to jump to the end result of "it works". Then again, that's books and the hot topic of discussion isn't about books.

    Even if the music companies are lying about everything else music sales are down and the actual reasons people are giving is that they download their music for "free" now instead of buying it. Yes, I've seen the survey results from the inside.

    I guess my point is that this probably doesn't apply to music.
    • Really? (Score:2, Insightful)

      Even if the music companies are lying about everything else music sales are down and the actual reasons people are giving is that they download their music for "free" now instead of buying it. Yes, I've seen the survey results from the inside.
      Was "Because the music you industry slimeballs publish sucks ass" one of the survey options?

      Just asking...
    • Yes, it is very easy to draw conclusions, by looking to the music industry. A couple of years ago, while Metallica was busy crying a river over Napster, a couple of other bands decided to capitalize instead. Limp Bizkit and Cypress Hill both put on free concerts in support of Napster. Also, they decided that it was OK it their music was available on file-sharing services. Result: increased sales.
    • I mean, the sample size is pretty small - one book. It's promising to see this happening, but I hesitate to jump to the end result of "it works". Then again, that's books and the hot topic of discussion isn't about books.

      Actually, it is several books. The strongest point made, perhaps, are that
      1) Sales are initially very strong, then fade fast
      2) In the middle of the fading period, if the title is made available free online, sales inexplicably rise.

      This would suggest at least that music titles that have been released for more than a year or two, especially from low-sales artists, will benefit from being freely available after an initial period of not being freely available. I think I agree with that argument. It is kind of the same argument about movie VHS tapes: first year, very expensive, second year, $10, third year, $2 bin.
    • The sample size is several books plus a comparison of usual e-book sales with the same dead tree version plus over a thousand emails. As he says that's significantly more evidence than presented by the opposition side ("We've lost 400 trillion dollars in sales because of sharing program X. Um ... that's it. The prosecution rests.").

      I guess my point is that this probably doesn't apply to music.

      My guess is that's because most people wont pay for the crap that forms the staple from the record companies. This system only works for the good artists. The crap ones loose out big time. OMG could this be why ...

      I'll leave you to decide.

  • by Otto ( 17870 ) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @06:54PM (#3362005) Homepage Journal
    Series.

    Most books I (and others I've spoken with) really enjoy tend to be parts of a series of novels. Trilogies, etc.

    If you really want to avoid obscurity, make your first book as free as possible, sell it on the cheap, give the text away freely on the internet in every conceivable format, etc. Then sell the rest of the books via traditional sales methods.

    Get 'em addicted, then jack up the cost. Hey, it works. Ask your local drug dealer. (What, you don't think books are addictive??!?)
    • I tend to call this the DOOM model, since id used it for Wolfenstein/DOOM/Quake 1. Give away the first episode free, charge for the complete game (or in book terms series).

      Id is a company with annual revenues of over 1 million dollars per employee, so they must be doing something right. ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Think of all those textbooks you bought (or will buy) in college. How many of those would have you have laid out money for if you could have gotten them for free? I'll bet your answer wasn't "All of them".

    This may work for a fraction of books that are written, but it won't work for all of them. And anyone who bases policy on ONE datapoint deserves the lynching they'll get when they're proved wrong.
    • College textbooks satisfy Flint's criteria for pervasive petty thievery. They are overpriced and you don't get to discriminate on the purchase.

      I never paid full price for a college textbook if I could avoid it.

    • Is infinitely better than the opposition, which bases their policy on exactly ZERO.

      How many students do you really think can handle the eyestrain of an electronic copy for long?
  • yeah but. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MisterBlister ( 539957 ) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @06:57PM (#3362018) Homepage
    This guy is virtually unknown to the general public. Does anyone out there think this system would extend well to established authors (or musicians)? As a counter-point, I'd bring up Stephen King's experiment, where he allowed free download of his book and asked for a tiny donation in return. Very few of the people who downloaded the book paid for it and the project was scrapped.

    My basic point is that this guy is getting free advertising by releasing the book for free, which is resulting in some more sales than he would have gotten if nobody had ever heard of him...But the situation is much different when you're talking about an established very well-known author..And the same goes for music. MP3s given away for free by small bands may increase their market..But does anyone hear Britney Spears for the first time on MP3 and think wow, that's great..lets go buy the album? Of course not..And the the RIAA/other publish associations know this, and will quickly discount this guy's story.

    • Re:yeah but. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nyet ( 19118 )
      From the article:

      As a practical proposition, the theory behind the Free Library is that, certainly in the long run, it benefits an author to have a certain number of free or cheap titles of theirs readily available to the public. By far the main enemy any author faces, except a handful of ones who are famous to the public at large, is simply obscurity. Even well-known SF authors are only read by a small percentage of the potential SF audience. Most readers, even ones who have heard of the author, simply pass them up.

      Why? In most cases, simply because they don't really know anything about the writer and aren't willing to spend $7 to $28 just to experiment. So, they keep buying those authors they are familiar with.


      Which is the whole point... "big" name authors (or musicians/bands/actors/screenwriters/songwriters) stay big name BECAUSE of this effect, NOT because they are inherently better.

      That's why branding works so well in an inefficient market; it depends heavily on the consumers' imperfect information regarding what competitors exist.

      I would argue that supporting the SMALLER guy and making it harder for the more established content producers to maintain their lock on the market is a happy side effect.

      I know the RIAA/MPAA would disagree, but in this case, it helps both the producer and the consumer.
    • I didn't like Stephen King's analysis of his downloadable book. Actually, lots and lots of people were paying for it. King wanted 75% or more of downloaders to pay for it, and when they didn't, he canceled the project. While over 80% paid for the first chapter, only 46% of the people who downloaded the last chapter paid for it.

      But that's still a lot of people who were willing to pay for it! It also doesn't take into account the number of people who downloaded it maliciously, or those who paid once but downloaded it twice or more (on different computers, for example).

      The only real test of e-books would be this: a major author needs to start releasing _all_ of his/her new books in e-book format. Not just an occasional short story, and not one chapter at a time. Now, taking into account that it's much cheaper to sell a book online, is your total profit made from selling the e-book more or less than the total profit made from selling your last paperback?
    • That's not quite what he was talking about. Almost everybody has heard of Stephen King, but certainly not all of those people have read any of his "work". The argument goes that a person is more likely to read the book for free first and then go out and buy other books, then to just shell out for the book to begin with. Getting people to pay for what they are getting for free anyway is a completely different, and stupid, concept.

      Of course the problem here is that most popular and well known authors and "artists" (including your very fitting examples) are just plain shit, and no one in their right mind would buy them because they actually think they are good. That's the reason this sort of thing wouldn't work for the mainstream.

    • by Cryogenes ( 324121 ) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @07:31PM (#3362186)
      ... Stephen King's experiment, where he allowed free download of his book and asked for a tiny donation in return. Very few of the people who downloaded the book paid for it and the project was scrapped.
      This is simply not true. King set a threshhold of 75%, no less. As long as 75% of downloaders were paying a dollar per chapter (not, let us note, a tiny amount but probably more than the hardcover price), he would continue. This worked for the first five chapters. The sixth chapter was still downloaded 112.000 times [newsbytes.com] with 50% of people paying. Saying that "very few" people paid for their downloads is a gross misrepresentation of the facts. King took half a million dollars from his fans and then neither finished the project nor gave a refund.

      Saying that this experience proves that ebooks don't work is adding insult to injury.

      Do you believe in death after life?

    • As a counter-point, I'd bring up Stephen King's experiment, where he allowed free download of his book and asked for a tiny donation in return. Very few of the people who downloaded the book paid for it and the project was scrapped.

      In the final reckoning, King had somewhere in the ballpark of 71% payemnt (i.e. 71% of those who downloaded kicked him a buck, as per agreement), and made something like a $400,000 *profit.* The projected wasn't "scrapped" at all, but rather back-burnered in favor of other projects (which he is contractually obligated to complete.)

      Your major point-- that big names hardly need to benefit from the name-building power of distributing freebies-- still stands, but the King facts were wrong.
      • People will always want to read the book in the handy paper format! But on a related note I know plenty of people who've downloaded MP3s - then bought the CD for the one they like - without the free version being available in the first place they would never have heard of it - and the artist would've sold less copies.
        • Re:yeah but. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Arrgh ( 9406 )
          I have categorically stopped buying CDs unless I download and listen to the artist/album first.

          Not so much out of principle, but practicality. When I hear a song I like on the radio, I fire up my favourite P2P client and download everything I can find by the artist. If I like a significant fraction of the songs, I figure out which album has a bunch of good songs on it, and buy the CD.

          I don't like how 128kbps sounds, and I can only play audio CDs in the car--both make it impractical for me to really make good use of downloaded music, except as background noise while using the computer.
        • Myself personally, I am done purchasing paper books. I can carry around hundreds of books on my visor (with my Compact Flash springboard module), my visor is lighter than most books, and I can even read these books in the dark without waking my wife. Heck, using The Weasel Reader I don't even have to worry about turning the pages.

          Baen has got ebooks figured out, and they know it. I can sample books for free, purchase books at $4 a title (or $10 for a bundle of 4), and I can start reading them immediately. Their ebooks almost certainly have a higher profit margin than their paper backs as well. So they aren't just making me happy, it's making them happy as well.

          I used to avoid Baen (I made the mistake of reading Mercedes Lackey first), but now I have found several authors that I enjoy reading quite a bit. The Belisaurius series, for example, is quite good. Read "An Oblique Approach" and you will see what I mean (hey, it's free).

    • "As a counter-point, I'd bring up Stephen King's experiment, where he allowed free download of his book and asked for a tiny donation in return. Very few of the people who downloaded the book paid for it and the project was scrapped."

      My wife is a BIG Steven King fan and purchased ever chapter of "The Plant" (The ebook to which you refer.)

      The project was not scrapped. He did finish the book and on his web site he stated that he made more money from that book than from other books that were sold through regular publishers.
    • Re:yeah but. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ToLu the Happy Furby ( 63586 ) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @07:42PM (#3362253)
      This guy is virtually unknown to the general public. Does anyone out there think this system would extend well to established authors (or musicians)? As a counter-point, I'd bring up Stephen King's experiment, where he allowed free download of his book and asked for a tiny donation in return. Very few of the people who downloaded the book paid for it and the project was scrapped.

      False. For those who've forgotten the facts (i.e. you) here's what happened: in the fall of 2000, Stephen King offered up every chapter of his book-in-progress "The Plant" for free download, with the caveat that if at least 75% of the people downloading each chapter didn't pay $1, he wouldn't release the next one. (The PDFs were encrypted to prevent uncounted freeloaders.)

      He released 7 chapters. That means over 75% of people paid him the buck for 6 times in a row. "Very few" indeed. And this was hundreds of thousands of people, despite the fact that almost no one had a dedicated e-book reader at the time and, well, e-books suck. He made hundreds of thousands of dollars off this half-a-book. (Admittedly, this is less than he makes for his paper novels.) And despite the fact that he RAISED THE PRICE in the middle!! (To $2 AFAICT.) Many, many people paid $13 for half of a serialized mystery novel that there was a very real chance they would never get to finish (as indeed happened), even though they didn't have to pay a cent to get it.

      [Caveat: I believe King fudged the numbers to allow slightly less than 75% pay rate at one point. OTOH, there were very very widespread reports of corrupted downloads, so many of the "freeloaders" were actually people who downloaded once, paid, and then didn't want to pay again just to download a working copy.]

      My basic point is that this guy is getting free advertising by releasing the book for free, which is resulting in some more sales than he would have gotten if nobody had ever heard of him...But the situation is much different when you're talking about an established very well-known author..And the same goes for music. MP3s given away for free by small bands may increase their market..But does anyone hear Britney Spears for the first time on MP3 and think wow, that's great..lets go buy the album? Of course not..And the the RIAA/other publish associations know this, and will quickly discount this guy's story.

      First of all, I think you're wrong again; except for a very small number of artists, nobody really has saturation exposure, particularly amongst people who don't listen to pop radio or MTV. Plus you're forgetting that the record labels *pay* very very large amounts of money to *get* these artists songs to be played on pop radio/MTV.

      Although no, I don't expect the RIAA will be swayed by this or any other evidence, even the evidence that Napster fueled the largest increase in CD sales in history and that shutting it down directly caused the massive drop they are currently whining about. That's because the big record labels realize that even if they would initially make more money under such a system, they would lose their power. The reason artists sign with the big 5 is that the big 5 have a oligopoly on all the distribution channels; if you add a new distribution channel that cannot be easily controlled, then artists will sign with smaller labels that give them better contracts, or not sign with a label at all.

      The sad thing is, even if such a system did decrease the sales of the top few artists (or even the total revenues of the music/publishing industry), that is still not a reason not to move toward it. The only reason we have copyright laws is to encourage as many artists as possible to go into the career of producing valuable art for the rest of us. This motivation is explicitly stated in the Constitution. The copyright laws are *not* there to maximize the earnings of the top artists or of the record labels, only to ensure that the largest amount of music is available to the public.

      In other words, if a new system has the effect of increasing the number of people who can make a decent living creating art while decreasing the incomes of the top stars already in the industry, then by the criteria set forth in the Constitution our copyright laws ought to promote that system over the current one. Instead, all the evidence is that the way those laws are currently written prevents rather than promotes their stated purpose.
    • As a counter-point, I'd bring up Stephen King's experiment, where he allowed free download of his book and asked for a tiny donation in return. Very few of the people who downloaded the book paid for it and the project was scrapped.

      Alright, let's look at the comparison:
      Baen: Here, have these books for free. They're lesser known authors but we think that you'll enjoy them. Or if you want new titles, we have a pretty cheap subscription deal.
      King: I'm going to try this e-book thing. Since my time is too valuable to just give the work away for free, I'm asking that you (after downloading the book) send me a tiny donation. You know, just a way of saying, "Thanks".

      Sure, huge similarities there. One offers hassle-free books (or a $15/month subscription deal for "front list", new books) where what you get is either outright free or the traditional pay upfront, versus "oh if you like this inconvenience yourself to send me a buck". I'm sure that's similar enough that consumer preferences, such as wanting simplicity in the sale process won't distort your figures.

      Think about it-- wasn't shareware a flash in the pan marketing method? As long as people could only easily trade files on SneakerNet, shareware piracy didn't get too bad. Nowadays though, the modern Internet makes it easy to distribute warez (what with P2P and easy to setup hhtp/ftp servers). And that's a fact every media format faces. Right now, most of them are arguing for stronger control. On the other hand, I'm quite glad to see Baen (literally) take the wind from the sails of those who argue that "piracy causes lost sales".
    • Re:yeah but. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 1in10 ( 250285 )
      Steven King managed to keep up his 75% percent requirement for a number of chapters ... around 5 or 6 as I recall. So it was hardly a matter of "very few" people paying for the book.

      Secondly, since STeven King never released the book in paper form (as far as I'm aware), we can't compare it to his other books and see if the sales were higher or lower.

      It's an invalid comparison anyway, because he put it up for free to bolster sales of the book, where as Steven King was trying to sell the online version.

      Personally I think the online version of Steven King's book failed because people prefer their books on paper ... and in general prefer to get physical things for their money. I know I do!

      As far as the MP3 argument go, Britney doesn't suit my taste, but I have bought many albums of major label well known artists after I downloaded some MP3s off napster. I mean I bought the best of the Eurythmics (can't get a much bigger group than that!) even though I had most of the songs on MP3. If I hadn't downloaded them, I wouldn't have realised what a great group they really were.

      Before anyone says that it's not a new release, I counter it with the fact that selling old releases is better for the record companies. The album is already made, and it's costing them little to nothing to produce extra copies. Additionally, best of albums generally mean that the record companies keep ALL of the profits and don't have to give ANY to the artists, so it's in their interests to sell them.
    • This is the only one that he gave information on

      If you look at the library itself (www.baen.com/library) you'll see lots of authors have agreed to this, including Larry Niven / Jerry Pournelle, David Weber (The Honor Harrington books are one of Baen's main lines), David Drake. Also as part of their free samples I've seen sections from Spider Robinson and a few other people where they give you the first 6 or so chapters of the book

      Also, Stephen King's case used encryption, which is commented on in the article as being a flat-out bad idea. Never make it hard for the public to use your product if you can help it.

      The Baen Library is an excellent experiment - it involves giving away free books, and also a $10/month subscription service where you preview rough drafts and new books up to 3 months before they are published.

      It's not just one guy putting his books online and giving them away because he can't get published, it's an attempt to work with the public, rather then assume we are all criminals
    • Everyone's going on about how this can't be compared because:
      1) Books are in diminished form on a computer display
      2) Weber's not terribly popular
      3) This study is a small sample

      So how about brick-and-mortar libraries? They've been around for centuries and don't seem to be harming sales. True, you don't get to Keep the book, but you can read pretty much any book you want whenever you want (with some slight delay) by any author (popular or not) via inter-library loans. And, really, how often do you re-read a fiction novel? Once every few years, if ever again?
      I think I've spent more money over the years on books by authors whom I'd sampled at a library than I have on unknowns. I've even been known to go buy a book I read from a library if I liked it well enough.

      Maybe that doesn't translate directly to music, since you generally want to keep a song once you've got it rather than having a 2 week loan, but the only difference between this and a public library is that you trade the convenience of a dead-tree book for the convenience of staying home rather than going all the way to the library building. Libraries have yet to kill book sales, and I don't think I've ever heard an author complain about libraries having their book, so this whole thing is a foregone conclusion.
      • With the exception of reference books which I use too often to repeatedly take out of the library, the only reason I every buy a book is so that I can lend it out to my friends.

        Sure they could wait for the book at the library, but I like having a collection of books I can both recommend to my friends and *give* to them.

        If Hillary Rosen heard that she'd cough up Jack Valenti's left kidney, but I sure would buy less books if I couldn't share them.

      • "I've even been known to go buy a book I read from a library if I liked it well enough."

        OK, who knows that you went and bought a book, just because you liked it so much when you borrowed it from the library? Do your friends know every detail of your life? ;^)

        But about your last statement:
        "...I don't think I've ever heard an author complain about libraries having their book...."

        Not for about 100 years anyway. Around 1900 book publishers actually printed in their books that the purchaser agrees not to lend or sell the book to anyone. They wanted everyone to buy their own new copy of the book.

        Same with phonograph records. Go to eBay, to the Music/Recorded/Records/78s section. Look at a few of the images of old records, and around the bottom of the label it states this.

        The Supreme Court of course ruled it illegal/unconstitutional and came up with the "First Sale" doctrine.

        Just my two cents worth.
    • Re:yeah but. (Score:3, Insightful)

      As a counter-point, I'd bring up Stephen King's experiment, where he allowed free download of his book and asked for a tiny donation in return. Very few of the people who downloaded the book paid for it and the project was scrapped.

      Not true...

      1) his "donation" was actually pretty high, considering the number of pages you got (I believe it was $1 per part, with like 12 parts planned).

      2) he made (as in, clear profit after expenses) about half a million. He considered it a success, though not as much income as his print books (obviously.. and he botched a few things, including lack of notification when new parts were put up.)

      He wrote a letter to NYT or whoever had written an article about it, describing how he felt it was a success. But of course the big publisher didn't print his letter.

      As for your point that this only helps unknown authors, I have to wonder, so what? Let's treat music and writing and art like any other industry, where there are few or no "superstars". Sure there are high-profile lawyers, doctors, programmers, etc., but they don't make a large percentage of the profits in their respective industries. We should support smaller artists, so that being a recording musician isn't like playing the lottery, it's like having a normal job.

      I've also heard people saying that sharing hurts the little guy and not the big guy, so I guess it's a matter of opinion.

    • This guy is virtually unknown to the general public.

      Not any more! (Well, if you count slashdot readers as part of the "general" public.)

      Note also that Larry Niven has a book in the Baen library.

  • My one concern (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Shadarr ( 11622 )
    The only issue I have with this is that the vast majority of us have grown up buying books and CDs, so even when there are free digital versions available we still like the old physical copy. I'm not sure whether this will be true of future generations who will have grown up with digital versions and may not like the physical copy better. If that's the case, ten or twenty years from now all the arguments about file-trading being good for sales may no longer be true.
  • The fact that his sales have gone up when he makes his ebooks available for free should not be taken as a green light to pirate ebooks (or anything else.)

    The copyright holders have the right to distribute their works as they see fit and it is not for consumers to decide the distribution method for them.

    We should instead try to educate people. If there is a business model that allows one to give a product away and still make a descent living I'm sure that a lot of us would be interested.
  • Yet another anecdote (Score:5, Informative)

    by ansible ( 9585 ) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @07:00PM (#3362035) Journal

    I read "On Basilisk Station" by David Weber (also in the free library). I was immediately hooked, and ended up buying the rest of the series. That's 7 books purchased, when I got one for free.

    I think Weber did pretty well by me, and now I keep an eye out for other books of his. This is an author I had never even heard of, before I ran across the Baen Free Library.

    I'm slowly working through the rest of the free library. I haven't seen anything else that really grabbed yet, but no doubt I will end up spending some more cold, hard, cash.

    I'll purchase the electronic versions where available, because they are cheaper and in a non-proprietary format. I have a Rocket e-book reader, but never purchased books for that because I didn't want to be locked into a single reader device.

    Rock on Baen!

    • I have a Rocket e-book reader, but never purchased books for that because I didn't want to be locked into a single reader device.

      Now that's an interesting statement.... I downloaded the Windoze E-book reader ages ago, but only to see what all the fuss was about - I downloaded Huck. Finn (free, (c) expired) to try it out. That PC's gone now, so I guess I'd have to get another copy, another license, and re-download the book to get it again. If I'd already paid, I'd be sick.

      I don't know the Rocket e-book reader, but what do you use an e-book reader for, if not for reading e-books?!

      • Well, it was more of an experiment. I downloaded some free stuff on it, here and there.

        It is also possible to convert HTML pages to REB's, so sometimes I will use it for documentation.

  • It's different (Score:3, Insightful)

    by teslatug ( 543527 ) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @07:01PM (#3362040)
    Most people prefer the deadtree version, so they might download the e-book and see if they like it, but ultimately I think they buy the paper version to actually read it. This is different from CD's and DVD's since those you can enjoy listening and watching right after you download them. I know a lot of people buy the CD's they have downloaded if they like them, but I am also sure that there are many more who do not.

  • It is about profit. If the publishing industy (music, film, book) thought for a second that they could squeeze more profit from opening up their content (or not contolling it so much) they would be all over it like a wet blanket. Until it can be proven with hard evidence that they can, they will continue to try to contol the content any way they can.

    my $0.02
  • by Typingsux ( 65623 ) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @07:12PM (#3362088)
    Reading entire novels on your computer screen will never be as comfortable as curling up on the couch or bed.
    People start reading Eric Flints books online, get tired of the computer screen, like the book and purchase it.
    Then they comfortably read the book via the aforementioned places.
    This won't work successfully for all medium like music as has already been demonstated.
    • Exactly, and conversely if an e-book reader comes out that IS as comfortable and convienient to read in bed as a regular book (2 years from now? 5, 20? It'll happen sometime) then book sales will drop. This case example does not extend to music and movies at all.
    • I agree, reading books on a CRT sucks. Reading them on a PDA however, is bliss. The first ebook I read was "Mother of Demons" by Eric Flint, on my visor. Now I've purchased everything he's released on Baen's Webscriptions - and read it all on my visor and my monochrome iPaq. Curling up on a couch or in bed with a PDA is (IMO) vastly superior to dead-tree books. I can use the backlight and read in the dark, I don't have to flip pages, shift my position, or hold open a book. And, unlike my mother, I don't have much sentimental attachment to "the feel of a real book".

      Right now I have about 80 ebooks from Baen, Fictionwise, and Project Gutenberg, all on one compact flash card that I take everywhere. Please don't knock ebooks until you've really tried them!

  • [scifi.com]
    Read the short stories on this site. There's going to be one for each element when he's done.


  • Baen Business ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LL ( 20038 )
    Unlike a normal retailer, you know that they specialise in a specific genre (science fiction/fantasy). Hence the success rate of actually finding something (if you fit this segment) is actually quite high.

    So what is their business? I would guess it is to specialise in a category and make their brand (trademark) imply a certain level of quality and endorsement. I know that when I go scanning along the book spines along store shelves, if I spot their symbol, I recognise what it means and take the time to read the jacket and guage the likelihood I would enjoy the rest of it.

    People forget that one of the reason to read is to enjoy/explore/engage. Curl up in bed on a cold night with a favorite. Look for new ideas or a new prespective on life. Give a book to a friend to argue the issues. When the DRM or purchasing hassles get in the way of this, it merely increases the barriers to actually using their service.

    I would suggest some improvements for their eBooks ... some hint of the size (can be an ALTTEXT), and perhaps links to discussion forum (think if they come across a blockbuster like Nuromancer). As a personal plug, I would suggest people read Earth Web, there's some ideas on creating a market for ideas, putting monetary thresholds on accepting unknown email (they pay you to read it!), and blackmarketing in information. While the ideas are not particularly new, the way they are considered in a social setting does give some clues as to whether they would be accepted or not.

    LL
  • Books != Music (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Geeyzus ( 99967 )
    Books are simply different than music. Most Slashdot readers would love to have their music in MP3 (or OGG or whatever) format, but would NOT want to have all of their books in e-book format. Why? E-books are harder on the eyes to read, and this is a huge point. Your ears on the other hand can not tell the difference between the type of media music is recorded on (as long as the MP3 is a reasonable quality recording). So there is no value added by owning a CD over an MP3 copy, as there is with owning a paper book over an e-book.

    So while I think his story is nice, it does not translate to a good reason to make music freely available online to increase sales.

    Mark
    • I'm not so sure. I heard about atleast one experiment where they looked at two different universities. In one Napster use was rife. In the other it was banned. In the latter the shops around the university had a 2% reduction in sales relative to the previous year. In the one which had Napster, the sales were the same as the previous year. The music industry claimed that the fact that sales were flat proved that Napster was reducing their profits.

      Ur. Come again? The yearly sales were down in the control group and stayed the same in the experimental group; therefore Napster actually increased sales by 2%! Only 2%? Still, even if that was experimental error- the experiment showed absolutely no evidence that Napster had hurt sales. None. Nada, zip zero.

      I personally download a fair amount of music. If I like the music I often buy the CDs. Not EVERY time, but I'm pretty sure I buy more CDs because I listen to more music.

      In a pretty real sense P2P software is self advertising for music. To some extent, to make informed decisions on what to buy, some other people DO use these technologies to rip off the distributors. But so far as I can tell, that is almost exactly balanced by the self advertising aspects. Of course the distributors are looking at this tech, and thinking "How can we screw more money out of people with this stuff", but my suspicion is that they can't.

      People have a sort of built-in sense of how much money they are comfortable in spending on music, based on how music interworks with their self image. I think that's what the record companies do, they sell the image for the music.

      Essentially, buying a CD is like tipping the record company and artist; and always has been really. You almost never HAVE to buy a CD in the modern world. You can tape it off the radio or TV and listen to it later. You've been able to do this for decades. Is this illegal? Yes, just barely, sometimes, or else it's just time shifting, which is actually legal. Downloading off of a computer is only a bit more convenient. People who do that often buy stacks of legitimate music too. So the record companies have done well; I don't see this changing, unless they succeed in banning music sharing. People will probably tend to spend the money on other things then, video games or whatever.
  • buuut.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by b-side.org ( 533194 ) <bside&b-side,org> on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @07:21PM (#3362130) Homepage

    just like music, this only holds true for works which would normally sell below a certain threshold.

    the market rules for an unknown indie rock band are not the same as for metallica - the indie rock band will earn sales by exposure, metallica will lose them through pirating.

    same mechanism, different results.
    • I hate to say this but, with the Hammer's Slammers books, David Drake is probably one of the better-known writers in sci-fi circles. He's not quite up in Issac Asimov's league, but he's probably in the top 20% nonetheless. And he's seeing better sales of his books that are in the BFL than the ones available in more restricted electronic forms. By your theory he should be hurt by the free availability, but it appears not. He may not be helped as much as Eric (he's a bigger name than Eric, but is only making as much in electronic royalties as Eric), but he's still making 100 times as much in royalties on BFL electronic books as on non-BFL electronic books.

  • by sunset ( 182117 ) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @07:22PM (#3362136) Homepage
    In addition to the improved readability of the printed page, I'm pretty sure it has a special appeal to those of us with wives, or near-equivalents.

    Because, you see, for some reason reading a book in the same room with our SO counts as "quality time together"; but reading the same book online counts as "he's obsessed with that damn computer."

    • by PCM2 ( 4486 )
      For a minute there, I thought you were going to share an anecdote about the "Free Wife" site you'd set up...
    • Re:The wife factor (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rupert ( 28001 )
      You, sir, are married to my wife, the biandrous bitch.

    • In his last apartment, the computer was in the living room. When the wife was on the couch reading a book, if he sat and watched TV, it was 'quality time'. If he sat and read, it was 'quality time'. If he sat and picked his nose... well you get the idea.

      The minute he went on the computer (generally doing things like reading and coding, things most people would consider at least a bit more useful and rewarding than the idiot box), she freaked.

      I find this sort of antipathy towards computers is all too prevalent in our society. Then again, it's what keeps us in high demand, I suppose... :)

  • he sucks :-) I say that as someone that bought "The Philosophical Strangler" in e-book form just last week, and didn't make it past the first few chapters. It read like he had once heard about Pratchet, in passing, and was baseing his writing style on that. Really weak jokes, stuff that is supposed to be funny (Look! A guy kills people, and has intelligent conversations at the same time! har har), and a horrible "first-person" telling (Then, I walked past the place where John was concieved, but I'm thirsty, so I won't tell you about the rest of it.). It was exceedingly lame...

    Anyways, this is slightly OT, as TPS is not available for free (or I would have previewed and saved myself $4) but I don't begrudge the money, as this is a sweet idea, and I am hoping it takes off. Whew, speaking of bad writing, checkout *that* run-on...
  • pointlessness of encrypting e-books

    It's simple, really. They encrypt e-books so that they will be able to use the DMCA on anyone that dares reverse the encryption, regardless of whether or not the reversal was for piracy or not. Can you say "Dmitry Sklyarov"?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "Still, it is impossible to argue that the Library has hurt me any. To the contrary, I think there is every reason to believe that the added exposure the Library has given me helped the sales of that book-as well as all of my other books."

    I hate to say it, but Flint lost billions of dollars by posting that book for free. Sure he made some money, but he would have made _so_ much more had he not posted the book in the Baen Library!

    Wasn't this the RIAA's argument when the figures showed that CD sales were actually up during the time Napster was operating?

  • It seems that "old media" (ie: books publishers) is recognizing this fact a lot faster than newer media (ie: movie and music publishers). I recently finished my first book for New Riders (see www.brendonwilson.com/projects/jxta [brendonwilson.com]), and they not only allowed me to post the draft chapters when I asked, but even suggested posting the final version!

    This has apparently been accepted by New Riders lately for a few books. My acquisition editor, Stephanie Wall, has done this for about a dozen books, including the Zope [zope.org] book. According to her, New Riders has also come to the same conclusion: offering free online versions of books doesn't hurt the publisher's physical book sales. After all, if someone is crazy enough to read the entire thing off a monitor or print it off, it's doubtful they would have bought the book anyway.

    O'Reilly has also taken to doing something similar with its Open Books Project [oreilly.com].

    Of course, the question is how long this phenomenon will last once we have display technology that allows us to take these electronic books with us in a form indistinguishable from a normal paper book...

  • I love books (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rossz ( 67331 ) <ogre AT geekbiker DOT net> on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @07:39PM (#3362236) Homepage Journal
    I love books a lot. I have more books than I have shelfspace for. They are crammed into every bit of spare space in three different rooms. My wife and daughter are just as bad. Actually, my wife is worse than me because she will buy the same book in two different languages.

    Putting a book online will not prevent me from buying a real paper version of the book. It might get me interested in it enough to buy it.

    As for Stephen King's experiment. He went about it the wrong way. Replacing a book with an electronic copy just isn't going to work. I can't lay in bed on a lazy Sunday afternoon and read an ebook. I can't bring it along when I'm going somewhere where I know there will be a wait (e.g. doctor's office) or when I go in that little room with so much privacy.

    Sometimes I go through my shelves without anything in mind and run across a book I haven't read in years. It's like bumping into an old friend. You just don't get the same feeling browsing through a directory listing.
    • I often take my laptop into that little room with so much privacy... open a few browser windows, unhook (no wireless LAN!), and keep on reading. I've even downloaded whole books on this basis (see http://steve-parker.org/book/neuromancer.html)
  • It's free, and even though it was competing against lots of other Samba titles, it flew off the shelves. Bookstores I spoke to said buyers had alread read it and wanted it in paper.

    O'Reilly can't really say if it's a statistically sigificant advantage, but the opposite hypothesis, that it might hurt sales, sure ain't true!

    --dave (the 2nd author) c-b

  • Trying to draw parallels between free music and text publishing in relationship to weather they help or hurt sales is an apples to oranges situation.

    On the surface, distributing pirated books should be a heck of a lot easier then music. The file size is small (espically in unformated plain text). There is a slightly more difficult situation of getting the printed page to electronic format, but a bored pirate with some OCR software and several hours to kill should be able to do it with little problem.

    So, why is'nt anyone trading pirated books? Part of this has to do with a declining love of the medium found in the Internet generation. But I suspect more is found in the computers inability to translate media into an enjoyable format.

    When I download a song I like, it's very easy to take the music, pump it to my stereo or burn it onto a CD, making the recording indistingusable from a purchased copy. A text file enjoys no such luxery. Lying on my couch reading off the screen of a laptop is just not as good as holding a book in my hand.

    So, when somebody goes online and sees a free book they enjoy, the next logical step is to purchase the thing, because having an actual book format copy is better. There is little value added, other then album art/liner notes, and the knowledge you've done the right thing, by going out and purchasing music.

    That having been said, I still think unrestricted free trade of music is a good thing, and helps the artists in the long run. I just don't see this article as being a credible argument for that.
    • I have a CD changer, and I really enjoy have 100+ CDs at my disposal. However, needing to sit down every 2 weeks and enter the data from the new CDs in is kinda annoying. It is slow and tedious.

      I've been considering setting up my computer to easily make a copy of the CDs while using CDDB to fill in CD Text on the copies. Then I could put the original in the album for car trips, and the copy in the CD Jukebox, complete with CD text.

      If I were to copy CDs from other people, I would save all the money. For the copy in the car, I like having the real CD. I can flip through pages quickly and pick a CD, something I can't do with the burned copies as nicely. So I can buy CDs and make a copy for either the jukebox or the car, or I can buy 2 copies and have an inferior copy.

      I won't do MP3->CD Audio conversion, because they sound awful on a real system. However, I have a mid-range audio solution, if I had a boom box or only my computer to listen on, I probably wouldn't care... What do you think is more common among teenagers/college students, the target market for pop music?

      Alex
    • So, why is'nt anyone trading pirated books?

      They are. Bookwarez is a huge phenomenon with literally 1000s of works of fiction available for grabs. You might not be aware of it, but perhaps you don't read many books. I read a book a week on average and I'm well aware of how easy it is to get illegal copies of books.

      So, when somebody goes online and sees a free book they enjoy, the next logical step is to purchase the thing, because having an actual book format copy is better.

      I personally prefer e-book format over paper format. I can carry a dozen books around with me on my Palm Pilot. I don't have to remember my page or carry a bookmark. At nighttime I can read by the backlight which is more considerate than using the bedside lamp. I can hold the Palm in one hand: even the thinnest paper book requires two hands.

      It's not all peaches and cream. As Eric says in his essay, the quality of the average bookwarez is awful. OCR technology is not good enough and the scans have obviously never been proofread. It's very hard to find sites, and when you do it's uncommon to find what you want. Yet these are all shortcomings with bookwarez, not with e-books. I have no love for the paper book and no desire to read one if I can read an e-book instead.

      I still feel obligated to buy all my books in paper format, if only because I know that the authors won't get paid otherwise. It's also comforting to have a physical library instead of bits on a disc. But after buying my books I put them on my bookshelf and spend an agonising hour or two trying to find a badly OCRd "pirate" copy on the web so I can read it in a comfortable format. I really hate doing that: it wastes my time and detracts from the enjoyment of the book. I wish the publishers would wisen up and include with the paper book a CD containing an e-book version (preferably ASCII text).

      That having been said, I still think unrestricted free trade of music is a good thing, and helps the artists in the long run. I just don't see this article as being a credible argument for that.

      I think the article does have a credible argument, because I can strongly relate to it. I've bought more books now than ever before. This is partly is due to me having a greater disposable income than I used to, but I don't think that's the whole answer. I believe that bookwarez have increased my spending on books by introducing me to new authors. I'm an honest person and if I like a bookwarez I'll pay for a legal copy. Money isn't the issue. It's all about convenience. The book publishers are going out of their way to make my life inconvenient, and I'm the one who wants to buy their product!

  • Hard figures (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @08:26PM (#3362490) Homepage
    From the article:
    I think my hard figures demonstrate how absurd that claim is. It does not follow that simply because a copy is available for free that sales will therefore be hurt. In fact, they are more likely to be helped, for the simple reason that free copies-call them "samplers," if you will-are often the necessary inducement to convince people to buy something.
    I'm pretty skeptical that the figures he's citing -- "hard" though they may be -- actually prove anything about whether giving away books for free results in better sales.

    On the one hand, his most convincing point is that "certainly giving books away hasn't hurt my sales any, even if it hasn't helped them." But he can't actually say that, can he? Maybe the increase in sales he noticed late in term is a result of exactly what he suggests elsewhere in his essay -- the fact that he's gained more publicity as a writer since the book first came out. In that case, isn't it entirely possible that his sales would have gone up even more if he hadn't given away free copies to a portion of his potential readers?

    "But wait," you argue, "the reason he gained publicity is because he was giving the books away." But again, that's not going to be true for everyone, is it? Once every single author in existence is giving away books for free, we'll be at exactly the point we're at now, where the only people who get publicity are the ones who pay for it -- in terms of advertising, book tours, public speaking gigs, what-have-you.

    This guy likes giving away books? Fine. He says it hasn't hurt him any. Fine. But his evidence isn't all that empirical. All he can really say is that even though he's giving books away, he's been satisfied with the sales he's gotten.

    What's more, he could say the same if he was sending out promo copies of the dead tree version. This doesn't really say much at all about the glorious future of Internet-delivered media, from where I sit. It's just a cute experiment that one guy did. I'd like to see it reproduced by someone else -- maybe a few someones -- before really take any of it seriously.

  • By far the main enemy any author faces, except a handful of ones who are famous to the public at large, is simply obscurity. Even well-known SF authors are only read by a small percentage of the potential SF audience.

    And there's the rub: "most authors" might benefit from having (some of) their texts available for free because their main problem is obscurity, and it'll increase exposure.

    However, the publishing industry isn't concerned with the average obscure author. It's built around literary "stars" like grisham and king, who are not only widely known already, but have massive publicity machines to pump up each new book. In these cases, putting texts online for free wouldn't really increase exposure, and would more likely result in a torrent of people rushing in to get the book for free, and actually reduce sales. And, unlike Flint, I would argue that this is a legit concern; music sales have gone down as gnutella has become more popular, and while causality is not guaranteed in this case, neither is it in Flint's. It is a bit of a preemptive worry on the part of publishers, but that doesn't make it a groundless concern.

    Hence, encryption and other access controls. Whether it helps or hurts the small-time author is really beside the point from the perspective of people pushing it. It's unfortunate, but true. And I doubt they have the lobbying clout to turn the publishing industry around on this.

  • by Minupla ( 62455 ) <minuplaNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @09:35PM (#3362792) Homepage Journal
    I ran across the Free Library from a link in a /. comment, and read one of David Webers' books for the first time. I thereby discovered the Honor Harrington series of books of which I got to read the first title for free. I immediately put my friend onto the series who bought the first and subsequent volumes in dead-tree form. I myself discovered webscriptions.net where Baen sells electronic versions of their current and some back title list. I picked up the rest of the Honor series and have taken to reading most of my Baen series through webscriptions (heck, 10$ for 4-5 books, if I only ever read the one I bought that book bundle for, I break even, which has never been the case. If I read all 4-5 books (which is usually the case) I get them for 2-3$/book! A heck of a deal. Also ebooks work for me, I can load them on my palm when I'm working and don't have to carry a paperback with me to a client site, something that distracts from the professional air of a consultant working in 'managment' jobs).

    So Baen has definately made money off the 2-3 books they gave me for free.

    Incidentally, the author gets more money per book off of books I buy in e-format then they would if I went to the bookstore and bought a copy, and I can download them again if I lose my ecopy, and I save trees.
  • by Avery_Zero ( 544068 ) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @09:39PM (#3362813)
    I read this article a couple days ago (even submitted it to /. ), and I think the main message to grep out of this is for the MPAA and RIAA to back up their arguments with proof. Eric provides hard data in the form of sales figures that show, pretty conclusively, that the existence of free copies of his books actually increased sales (een those that were made freely available). While I will grant that the book publishing industry and the music/movie publishing industry are different animals, I would call upon the RIAA/MPAA to give us some data to back up their arguments. Take a chance, do some research, make pretty graphs, whatever! Just stop treating us (your customers) like theives, ok?

    Avery

  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @10:21PM (#3362964) Homepage
    I was interested in this:

    ... Charles Vest, president of MIT, as an aside mentioned that when college textbook presses (like the one at MIT) put up free e-text copies of their new textbooks at the same time they published the print version, sales of the print versions went UP.

    If it works to increase the sale for things as over priced as the normal college textbook...

    Does anyone know what the actual textbook(s) is he's referring to? AFAIK, my site The Assayer [theassayer.org] is the biggest catalog on the web of books that have been intentionally made free-as-in-something by their authors, and I don't have any of the examples he's referring to. I'd be grateful if anyone could reply here about what they are, so I can add them in.

    What he's saying matches up perfectly with my own experience with self-publishing free books. My own books [lightandmatter.com] are free-as-in-copyleft, and are also for sale in dead tree format. I've done very little traditional promotion, and yet my books have been fairly successful, considering that it's not easy for a self-published author to break into the textbook market. As the author of the article points out, it's pretty hard to know for sure whether certain sales results are the result of any particular action, such as making books available for free in digital form. But one good indication is that the small amount of non-web promotion that I did (sending out free evaluation copies on CD) was nearly all in California, whereas none of the teachers who have adopted my books are in California.

  • Other examples (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Wednesday April 17, 2002 @10:27PM (#3362983) Homepage Journal
    Though I never got into the Napster thing others I worked with did and they put together some CD's that I really liked as they contained alot of old songs that I liked.

    Listening to these CDs at work, where they would play them, brought to mind these old songs and even the idea of going out and buying the artist CDs.
    But then all the crap started up and I said the hell with it, never buying any of the CDs that the napster stuff brought to mind.

    Now it's a matter of out sight (ear) out of mind. To bad for the music business... uh errr...greed business...

    Wener Bros. is cracking down on Matrix fan sites now....

    All this reminds me of the story of the dog who lost the steak in his mouth when he saw his reflection and his greed tried to get the steak from his own reflection and lost what he had...

    I'm not at all supprised about the findings of this author, cept for finding some "creator" realizing all this.

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