Why it pays for Cory Doctorow to give his books away for free.

Cory Doctorow, one of the Bloggers behind Boing Boing wrote an article in Forbes about Giving It Away

I’ve been giving away my books ever since my first novel came out, and boy has it ever made me a bunch of money.

An interesting philosophy, but it does make sense somehow. In this new digital age, ebooks form the basis for word of mouth for books. In the paper age, I would borrow a book from a friend, read it and if it was good I would probably buy a version to add to my collection.

Like Joe Jaffe said in one of his podcasts, it’s like buying the T-Shirt after a good rock concert. You want to have a souvenir, something to show to your friends.

ebooks don’t replace this kind of purchase, but they even help spread the news since it is much easier to email ebooks across the globe compared to books.
That he has been successful, even in perspective of his well experienced publisher, shows this quote:

There’s no empirical way to prove that giving away books sells more books–but I’ve done this with three novels and a short story collection (and I’ll be doing it with two more novels and another collection in the next year), and my books have consistently outperformed my publisher’s expectations. Comparing their sales to the numbers provided by colleagues suggests that they perform somewhat better than other books from similar writers at similar stages in their careers.

The web does require us to rethink certain things. There is a book called Free Culture (which I haven’t fully read, I admit), in which Lawrence Lessig describes how people needed to rethink land ownership, when the first planes flew over people’s land. Up until that point, people owned the land and the air above it. With the aviation industry arriving on the horizon, this needed rethinking and changing of laws.

Nowadays, information (and things like movies and music are nothing but information, from a digital standpoint) is so easy to share and remix, that the only added value really stays with the creator of the piece of information. And the fact, that he is the only one able to recreate a piece of information (music, film, essay) that will be equally sought after.

What I mean? In future, there will be a big shakeout in the whole value chain of all parties dealing with information. Any party sitting in the value chain that doesn’t really add value, will have a hard time justifiying their relevance (other than owning rights – which means enforcing „value“ through lawsuits).

This is no bad news for the content creators. Cory earns good money by many activities surrounding his writing, as he writes in that article in Forbes, which, in turn, has apparently been paid well, too. This works out fine, since people pay to see, hear or read stuff coming directly from a content creator. And in music, bands will always be able to earn money through concerts. It’s the big fat middle that will increasingly need to justify their contribution to the value chain.

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