Philosophical Musings

March 31, 2007

Free eBooks a Growing Trend?

Filed under: Copyrights,ebooks — Elad Kehat @ 6:40 pm

Seth Godin recommends two novels on his blog today, and I decided to check them out. I was surprised and delighted to find out that Geek Mafia‘s author, Rick Dakan, offers it as a free download! This means I can just go ahead and read it on my Sony Reader.

So far I’ve encountered just a handful of books that authors offer for free. Mostly the author is deep into the Creative Commons philosophy (e.g. Yochai Benkler or Cory Doctorow). The whole “give my work away for free” movement has been gaining strength among young musicians lately, but authors seem more set in their ways.

The big question that I’d really like to figure out though is why do authors give their books away for free? Musicians I can understand – they make most of their money from live shows anyway, and giving away the mp3s is probably the best way for a young musician today to create an audience that wants to come and see her perform. Not so for authors – selling the book is the only way I know of for an author to generate revenue, so giving it away cannot be a promotion for something else. Am I wrong?

Now in some cases it must be clear to the author that he probably has a very small potential readership and hence no publisher is willing to publish him. Getting some people to read the work you sweat for, even if you don’t make money from it, makes sense in this case. In a way it’s just like blogging. However, I don’t think that Geek Mafia falls into that category, so what gives?

Or maybe it’s just that authors assume (and rightly so, IMHO) that most people aren’t going to read the whole book off their computer monitor, and printing the whole thing costs more than just buying the book, so giving it away for free is likely to generate more sampling among potential customers, some of whom are going to buy the paper thing. That seems to me to be the most likely reason. However, as I said above, I’m going to read this on my Sony Reader – ebooks are just fine for me. In fact, I hardly ever read paper books anymore. So what happens when lots of people have some kind of e-ink reader? Is this going to have the same effect on book sales that mp3 players had on CD sales?

Interesting times…


March 25, 2007

Content Business Going in Reverse

Filed under: business,Copyrights — Elad Kehat @ 3:27 pm

I was reading a post by Scott Karp dubbed “Is Content Still A Business?” and was struck by his claim that creating content is fast becoming something you can’t make money from. It sounds very true, and it flies in the face of the old media industry that still believes that content is king. Take for example Michael Eisner, who just launched a new company to create video content for the web.


I especially liked Karp’s claim that “Apple’s iTunes is not really a platform for selling music but rather for selling hardware.”

I’m wondering if that’s sustainable. After all, business have been moving for a long while towards a model that underprices the expensive hardware in order to sell you lots of perishables at exorbitant prices. HP sells printers for peanuts, but makes billions in profits from ink. Gillette tries to get you to buy their razor so it can make money selling blades, and Sony started with the Walkman and then TVs, but later bought into the media business to profit from the perishable content you use on those devices.

Now the idea of selling music in order to promote the hardware that plays goes wonderfully against the grain.

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