Tuesday, August 02, 2005

More on Free Books

Charlie Stross (who will be at Worldcon for any one going) piped up a few days ago about the publishing industries tentative foray into providing copies of entire novels for free -- midlist usually, but he's got some good information here:

Q: Do you think it hurts the Biggest-name authors more than it hurts midlist writers?

A: I don't think it hurts at all.

Here in the non-internet world, we have a technical term for people who, without the permission of the authors, take copies of their books and give them away for free to lots of readers: we call them "librarians". Complaining about readers "hurting sales" by reading free ebook copies "instead of" buying the paper edition is a bit like complaining that library withdrawals hurt sales. It assumes a false either/or dichotomy. In the first instance, some library users are too poor to buy the book in the first place -- hence, they are not a lost sale: they were never a potential sale in the first place. Secondly, many library users go on to buy copies of books they first read via the library. The library is a great browsing opportunity, and only drives sales in the long term.

I think that sector of the publishing industry that angsts loudly about "ebook pirates" is missing the point by the mile -- the readers are not your enemy, and once you start viewing your ebook rights as a marketing opportunity to boost your paper sales, rather than as an unfeasible and unusable profit centre, things fall into place and the pain is replaced by gain.

Edit Note: Emphasis mine


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