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Old 08-18-2009, 08:56 AM   #1
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Cory Doctorow on free ebooks (Guardian)

Cory makes the case for giving your stuff away in today's Guardian...

Why free ebooks should be part of the plot for writers
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Old 08-18-2009, 09:36 AM   #2
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The last line is interesting, but I think it's optimistic.
Quote:
The internet's attention span is about five minutes, so unless the reader can do something affirmative to acquire the book within five minutes of being enticed by the ebook, there's a good chance they never will.
My attention span is less than 1 minute.
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Old 08-18-2009, 09:37 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Wetdogeared View Post
The last line is interesting, but I think it's optimistic.

My attention span is less than 1 minute.
My attention spa... ohhh.. a shiny!

Seriously though... Mr. Doctorow has some good argumentation, one would just hope that more authors/publishers were getting on the wagon.
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Old 08-18-2009, 10:37 AM   #4
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Mr. Doctorow, though, is using eBooks as an advertising vehicle for selling paper books. If people stop buying paper books, that won't work any more.
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Old 08-18-2009, 10:45 AM   #5
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Since getting my Ebook Reader, the only physical books I have bought are for my wife (because she doesn't read enough to warrant her own reader and she aint using mine!)

I will no longer buy physical books. This has nothing to do with saving paper, purely because of the physical space they take.

When I did have a room full of books (which eventually became my eldests bedroom), the shelves were 3 deep and in general quite unorganised. This didn't stop me loving seeing all of those books.

Since getting the reader though, I am having more fun reading - some of the heavier books no longer hurt my wrist. I now have a full selection with me when ready to start something new. If I really can't read the book I am currently in the middle of, I can easily change.

For me, the ebook reader is perfect and I don't really see myself going back to the physical copy any time soon!
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Old 08-18-2009, 11:30 AM   #6
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While I've largely switched over to ebooks for my personal reading, the only time I really read paper anymore, outside of books that are just unavailable in ebook form, is required reading for school, when it has timed expiration DRM. I refuse to pay as much it costs for school books, to only be able to use it for a limited period of time. It just doesn't make sense to spend the same price for an ebook as it does for paper, not being able to resell it, and cannot use it after 180 days (especially when many of my books I have to reuse between multiple semesters of classes).
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Old 08-18-2009, 12:30 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
Mr. Doctorow, though, is using eBooks as an advertising vehicle for selling paper books. If people stop buying paper books, that won't work any more.

I'd have to agree. I love Doctorow's work and his ideas, but this article feels like a retread, old news. I think the problem may be that he has become part of a new establishment, a new status quo. He's writer 1.5 compared to writer 2.0.

Although according to this youtube link he's adopting a NIN approach to his new short story collection; donations, pay what you want, escalating price scales from 0 - infinity. POD printing on the backend. Now THIS is more like Writer 2.0.

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Old 08-18-2009, 12:45 PM   #8
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I agree with you guys. Cory's experiments worked out well only because e-readers are a tiny slice of the pie. When the day comes that e-readers are a majority slice I think this approach will face-plant. I don't know the "right" answer for publishers. Perhaps DRM will endure indefinitely and piracy will remain below the threshold of pain for publishers. It would help if we had fewer DRM'd book standards. The consumer would have less fear of format-obsolescence. That seems like the path-of-least-resistance future.

If all writing is free to the consumer we'll be swamped with crap. I can see some sort of on-line reputation systems helping good authors rise above the muck but it would subject to spoofing, just as "astroturfing" spoofs proper grass roots movements.
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Old 08-18-2009, 12:55 PM   #9
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Quote:
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Cory's experiments worked out well only because e-readers are a tiny slice of the pie. When the day comes that e-readers are a majority slice I think this approach will face-plant.
Oh noes, in 20 years (and I'm being really optimistic about the rate of adoption on ebooks here) we're going to have to find ANOTHER new business model! Woe is us! Yes, business models change over time. What worked yesterday does not work today. What works today will not work tomorrow. Ask the music industry.

His point may be a retread, but it remains valid:

The problem of most writers (nay, artists), ebook-savvy or not, is not piracy. It is obscurity.

Harry's argument is
Quote:
Mr. Doctorow, though, is using eBooks as an advertising vehicle for selling paper books. If people stop buying paper books, that won't work any more.
I would partially agree, but what he has actually done is use a certain business model to generate (positive) attention, which IN TURN has generated sales.

Last edited by acidzebra; 08-18-2009 at 12:57 PM.
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Old 08-18-2009, 01:18 PM   #10
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I would partially agree, but what he has actually done is use a certain business model to generate (positive) attention, which IN TURN has generated sales.
He has adapted the business model and when the reality change again he will continue to adapt. The people that can adapt will survive.

Last edited by tompe; 08-18-2009 at 03:54 PM.
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Old 08-18-2009, 02:51 PM   #11
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If Cory's approach works to make writers who are already bestsellers even bigger bestsellers, that is one thing. But does it work for writers who are less well known (who may not be in a position to ask for or fund the kind of audaciously layered publication Cory describes in the video)?

I'd say yes, but on a smaller scale.

I released six novels as free ebooks. One was a new title, the others were out of print, or effectively so. When I later had nine books released/rereleased as commercial ebooks, I saw a definite sales spike that I would attribute to new audience from the free promotion. But has the promotion had legs? That's much harder to tell. Even though everything is digital, there's still a very long lag between sales and reporting of sales to the author.

Did the free promotion boost hardcover sales of the new title? I'm sure it did; people told me that's why they bought it. But numbers? I can only guess, but my guess is that it gave a modest boost to sales.

Did it boost sales of Print on Demand editions of the commercial ebooks? Unknown; see earlier remark about reporting. POD sales are more hype than reality, in my experience. But like everything else, that could change.

Yes, writers have to adapt. But it's a devilish business trying to figure out which way to turn. The skills that make someone a good writer are not necessarily the same as the skills that make someone a good promoter.

But I guess that has always been true.
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