Buy The Novel, Get A Lot More -- Including True Reasons To Buy

from the now-this-is-unique dept

When we talk about the various business models and economics surrounding "infinite goods" people always want to insist that there's some area where there are no scarcities or are no ancillary goods that can be sold. One example that's commonly cited is novels. Sure, with business books, the writer can go on a speaking tour, but with novels, what else will people want to buy? But, of course, that misses the point. There are always creative ways to get people to buy, and it's rather insulting to suggest that people are so uncreative that they can't come up with other unique ways to either sell other things or to convince people that the physical book itself is worth buying.

That's why I was excited to hear from JC Hutchins, who was telling us about the way he's selling his new novel, Personal Effects: Dark Art. First, if you buy the book itself, it comes with a lot more than just the book. In the book are various "artifacts" that are talked about in the book and are a part of the story -- such as credit cards, business cards, IDs, photos and legal documents -- all of which look and feel totally authentic (yes, including the credit card). But, even more interesting is that the story goes beyond the book itself. We've seen various video games, movies and even albums have certain "Alternative Reality Games" associated with them -- and this book does, too. If you Google the names of certain characters, you can find their webpages and blogs (and accounts on certain social networking sites). The phone numbers on the business card work. You can email characters in the story, hear voicemails and hack into different websites and emails, as well.

Oh, and on top of that, in order to help people get more interested in the story, Hutchins offers up a free audio prequel to the book designed to introduce you to the story, the characters and the "world" the full story inhabits. He also has a huge 50 page PDF file you can download, with details and info on how to host your own party around the themes in the book, with the idea obviously being to allow fans of the book to evangelize it to other friends.

And, of course, Hutchins works to come up with interesting ways to "connect with fans," including the ability for fans to "commit themselves" as patients to the psychiatric hospital at the center of the story. The story in the book revolves around a therapist at the hospital who uses an individual's "personal effects" to help treat them -- so this part lets you submit your own backstory and whatever "personal effects" you want, in order to "become a patient." It may be a little gimmicky, but it's a lot more immersive than just about any other novel.

All in all, it looks like a really fun world around the book. It helps the author better connect with fans and gives them a reason to buy the actual book -- no ebook is going to replace the overall impact here.

Now, I can probably already write exactly what the critics will say in the comments here: that (1) this seems like a ton of extra work and what if the author just wants to write and (2) this only works this one time, with this one author, in this particular genre. In response to the first point, that's true, but Hutchins actually teamed up with an alternative reality game creator, Jordan Weisman, and there's no reason other authors can't find partners, too. Second (and this is important, even though it will no doubt be ignored by the critics here): no one is saying that this is "the model" for selling novels in the future. The point is simple: there are a nearly unlimited number of ways in which authors can be creative and unique in providing people true reasons to buy books and/or other scarcities. Hutchins is just demonstrating one (or, actually, a few) that he figured out. In this case, Hutchins recognized (correctly) that such an ARG would fit with this particular novel, and that's great. I'm sure other creative writers in totally different genres can come up with creative other "reasons to buy" and other scarcities around the types of things they do, as well.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Kelly Brown (profile), Jun 24th, 2009 @ 12:02pm

    Hmmm

    this seems like a ton of extra work and what if the author just wants to write

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 12:06pm

    Re: Hmmm

    Not to mention the fact that this only works this one time, with this one author, in this particular genre.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Gem, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 12:35pm

    Sounds like fun

    I think that sounds like a lot of fun, actually. I wasn't even aware of this author or this book, but the surrounding ARG and thought out world around it makes it a lot more than just a book.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Keven Sutton, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 12:39pm

    Re: Hmmm

    "this seems like a ton of extra work and what if the author just wants to write"

    that's like saying, what if this painter just wants to paint?

    they are allowed to do that, art for arts sake is the foundation of creative works. However monetizing that work is an other story. Just like the painter, an author has to try and get known by his audience.

    Book signings, live appearances, Progress on their upcoming works, all of these are ways of monetizing a book. This one is just more innovative and creative. Not all authors will do it, and not all authors will be able to support them selves on their text alone.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Jun 24th, 2009 @ 12:43pm

    reminds me of something

    Oh yeah tose old interactive text games from the late 1970's early 1980's the was a DOS text only hitchhikers guide to the universe game..... neat concept though to integrate the book directly into the game, kudo's to the guy who thought this promotion up.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Dan, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 12:47pm

    "gives them a reason to buy the actual book"

    Not really

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Re: Hmmm

    the gimmick of distorting a guitar sound only worked on time, with one artist, in the particular genre of rock music.

    whos really to say this is any different? once upon a time books didnt have cover art. then they did. once upon a time books werent digital, and now they are. once upon a time there were no sequels, and now there are. if you think that this is a non-reproducible gimmick, then you are wrong.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 1:05pm

    Once again,marketing by typing a pork chop around something so the dogs will play with it.

    Is the book in and of itself so bad? Great works don't need to be fluff sold.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Shawn, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 1:18pm

    That's it!

    Just a quick question- I have never really written anything but ac #8 has me convinced this could work.... how many of you are interested in my book 'Let your dog play with this'? the first 200 people to buy @ $23.95 will get 1) a postcard my dog Rufus has chewed on and 2) A pork chop that has been securely attached to the book so your dog can play with it

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 1:30pm

    For all the Eeoyres

    Any Baby Boomers reading? Remember Cheech & Chong's Big Bamboo album? I didn't know anyone who didn't talk about the album, even if they didn't buy it for the big rolling paper. Suddenly lots of people knew their act.

    Maybe it does work only one time for one album, but another album/book/CD, etc., and another wacky song/toy/game, etc. and soon it's a theme.

    Cracker Jack anyone?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    chris (profile), Jun 24th, 2009 @ 1:41pm

    Re:

    Is the book in and of itself so bad? Great works don't need to be fluff sold.

    i couldn't agree more. good art just stands on its own. you don't see real authors promoting their works by appearing on talk shows and traveling around signing copies at bookstores, do you? no sir. you write the book, it goes on the shelf at a store with walls and you get a hojillion dollars. it worked that way for my great granddad and it'll work that way for me too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 1:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: Hmmm

    "the gimmick of distorting a guitar sound only worked on time, with one artist, in the particular genre of rock music."

    Well compared!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 1:58pm

    Re: Re:

    Wow,
    Way to purposely miss the point! Don't choose to be blind to reality.

    It's no longer "just a book" it's an entire experience built around a book and other physical things that are for sale, at a profit.

    This is as much a "book" as television is "radio with pictures".
    It could be the same as a book, but then what would be the point of the extra features and effort?
    The point is that it's MORE than a book and offers participants MORE and different EXPERIENCES than a plain old regular book.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 1:59pm

    Re: That's it!

    Incidentally, the pork chop has not been preserved in any way, so you should purchase the book quickly...very quickly.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    For all the Eeoyres, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 2:00pm

    Re: For all the Eeoyres

    Sorry, I'm stealing that as my new name.

    Thanks AC.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 2:03pm

    Readers read and non-readers

    don't.

    I can't imagine relying solely on downloaded books. I can have a digital version of a book and never read it until I print it out or buy a hard copy.

    I have been a reader all of my life, almost, since I started at 4. The beauty of books, besides the wonderful infinity of worlds to which they can take you, is their portability. I can't or don't want to carry a computer from room to room or take one to bed.

    I buy authors I like; they can never write and publish fast enough for me!I'm attracted to book covers and if I like what I read, I will go back and buy all of the author's previous works. No gimmick, however intriguing, is going to get me to invest in a new author (all the bells and whistles must add to the cost of the book). The authors I already enjoy won't need to come up with gimmicks; I'm probably already eagerly awaiting their next book.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 24th, 2009 @ 2:09pm

    Re: Readers read and non-readers

    I can't click through the link at work. Anyone know who the publisher is? Or is this self-published?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 2:20pm

    Re: Re: Hmmm

    I guess you missed the joke, Kevin. :-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 2:27pm

    Re:

    Won't the pork chop stain the book?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    LostSailor (profile), Jun 24th, 2009 @ 2:30pm

    Where's the "Free"?

    Now, I can probably already write exactly what the critics will say in the comments here: that (1) this seems like a ton of extra work and what if the author just wants to write and (2) this only works this one time, with this one author, in this particular genre.

    Nope.

    This is a great example of an author coming up with a ton of extra interactive content that go far beyond the basic nature of the book (not that most of this hasn't been done before, but this is, I think, a innovative approach).

    But....where's the "free"? Yes, he's giving readers a "reason to buy" but what's to say they wouldn't have bought the book anyway. This author has typically allowed audio downloads of his work, but I don't see any other type of download. This particular project, however, has no "free" component: its for sale even electronically. I've not seen anything that indicates that they want this to be pirated.

    Still, this is pretty innovative. And while this lends itself more to genre (SF, fantasy, thriller, etc.) than more mainstream fiction, there are definitely some lessons to be cleaned from this example.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 24th, 2009 @ 2:41pm

    Re: Where's the "Free"?

    "But....where's the "free"? Yes, he's giving readers a "reason to buy" but what's to say they wouldn't have bought the book anyway"

    Uh...what? Mike, correct me if I'm wrong here, but I don't think the statement has EVER been "You must include free". It has been that people must be given a reason buy what's scarce. This book is coming with a lot of tangible, physical things:

    From the article "In the book are various "artifacts" that are talked about in the book and are a part of the story -- such as credit cards, business cards, IDs, photos and legal documents -- all of which look and feel totally authentic"

    When you give fans a REASON to buy the physical book, rather than just download the e-book from a torrent site, they are willing to buy. They have something they actually WANT to pay for.

    Plus, you know, this from the article "Hutchins offers up a free audio prequel to the book designed to introduce you to the story, the characters and the "world" the full story inhabits. He also has a huge 50 page PDF file you can download", which describes some of things provided for free...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    Kelly Brown (profile), Jun 24th, 2009 @ 2:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Hmmm

    Indeed he did. ^_^

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    BobinBaltimore (profile), Jun 24th, 2009 @ 2:57pm

    Re: Re: Where's the "Free"?

    Mike's rule: "Anything free is good, everything pay is bad." Just jooooking. :-)

    But seriously, I thought I had read so many downloaders right here on TechDirt writing that they religiously compensate content producers for their work if they like it. If that's the case, all the rest of this is noise, because they would make money on just the book, if it's good and if they can download it for free, right?

    To further ruin Mike's day, this critic will agree that this is a good example of well-articulated value adds that entice casual fans and non-fans to take a leap, especially if word-of-mouth is good. And it increases fan "stickiness" and mindshare, which is good for any content producer. My only critique of the post is the categorization of the story in the "now-this-is-unique." Fully realized, sure. But not unique. Novelty incentives go back to the earliest days of trade, and are certainly nothing new with books, music or movies. I bought a Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry box set a bit ago that had all sorts of inserts in an "evidence kit," additional interviews and add-ons, and links to "exclusive" web content. Lots of individuals and corporations are doing just this, though, again, this particular author really seems to have put some work into it. Kudos to him. I hope the product is good and he profits from it, as he should.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Jay Greathouse, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 2:58pm

    new morality, new markets

    the ability to manipulate people in mass relies upon an authoritarian posture and a sizable demographic with easily accessible emotional buttons - I believe what we are seeing in the market place is both the exhaustion of possible profits by the over exploitation of groomed docile markets and the growth of individuals who possess enough self-knowledge to resist common emotional appeals

    the old school will forever wax nostalgic regarding the ability to just push the same old buttons on once upon a time affluent consumers - anymore anyone who can afford discretionary purchases also has the smarts to sidestep the old mass appeals - hence the new market

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 24th, 2009 @ 3:04pm

    Re: Where's the "Free"?

    But....where's the "free"?

    Huh? Who cares? The model has never been about "free" it's always been about providing scarcities that are worth buying. Free is one tool of many, but it's the one most confused.

    It's also the one that people seem to get caught up on and unable to think past. Yourself for example.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Allen Sale (profile), Jun 24th, 2009 @ 3:15pm

    AC

    Definitely valid points. It is the immersing experience that hooks me for this particular book; the idea that we as individuals can interact with one of the characters on Twitter or read her blog. Your senses are required to work in tandem with your imagination. We as a society commit things to memory better when our senses are forced to be used. In this case, we have audible, visual, and tangible elements that will aid us in remembering more of the details.

    Side note: We need more Tiggers in this world. The late professor Randy Pausch would be smiling right now. Keep sharing your bliss!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    BobinBaltimore (profile), Jun 24th, 2009 @ 3:23pm

    Re: new morality, new markets

    I *think* you said that people are sick of being inundated with patronizing marketing, tugging and over-tugged strings and pressing over-pressed buttons. Totally agree with that. I think you also said that rich people are smart enough to see through this. Not so sure that affluence directly indicates consumer smarts. I know a lot of people in the "more money than brains crowd" that are among the most easily taken. I do think that consumer savvy in these things has exploded, which is good. But it has little to do with affluence.

    And my god, man, your prose is 10 feet thick! Good for you, I guess. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    TW Burger (profile), Jun 24th, 2009 @ 3:33pm

    Re: Sounds like fun

    Agreed, this is brilliant. I think this will be the future of many books. I can see the text contents being free for online download and the "book" being a rich environment only available for a fee. Read the book, get the T-Shirt.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    GatorRock (profile), Jun 24th, 2009 @ 3:48pm

    Interesting the negativity

    So when was reading a book such a negative experience for so many of you?

    Immediately some here think it's horrible to approach something from a new angle. And to assume because someone did they must suck at writing.

    No they do this because most likely they are very creative and trying to break the mold.

    I'm looking forward to finally getting my hands on a copy- and would assume the book is quite good as other reviews at major publications give it great reviews-- Washington Post (http://is.gd/1cr3j) and even Publisher’s Weekly gave it a STARRED review (http://is.gd/1crc1 ) (that's a pretty big deal).

    Right now it sucks for me being in the UK, still at least another week until it's out. Looking forward to some new ideas for the print media world.

    Oh for the other guy: published by St. Martin's Press
    Thus not self-published.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 6:53pm

    In the end, shouldn't the book be reason enough to buy a book?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2009 @ 8:10pm

    Am I the only one who thinks this is a really cool marketing idea?

    It's a bit reminiscent of Fringe (the FOX TV show), where the creators gave the viewers a mystery surrounding both "the pattern" and the glyphs that appear on screen. Pretty ingenious idea to get people hooked onto the mystery.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    ChrisB (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 6:58am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I'm pretty sure he's joking. The successful (i.e., money making) authors are shameless self promoters. But for most people, being a "writer" is a good way to go broke.

    I dabbled in writing, and there is basically no way to make money at it. If you want to make money, write for a magazine, or use your writing to become famous and then teach a classes or something. Or start a blog.

    Frankly, with the internet and freely giving away your first few novels, you are much more likely to make *some* money writing than before, when you had to go through a publisher or self-publish (p.s., DO NOT EVER DO THE LATTER).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    LostSailor (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 8:20am

    Re: Re: Where's the "Free"?

    I applaud your talent, Mike. You're able to punt and move the goalposts at the same time (while throwing in a gratuitous personal barb). Impressive.

    But, to the matter at hand:

    "When we talk about the various business models and economics surrounding "infinite goods" people always want to insist that there's some area where there are no scarcities or are no ancillary goods that can be sold. One example that's commonly cited is novels."

    The whole theme of your writing here has been that digital goods are infinite and should be "free" as their marginal cost is near zero, and other scarcities related to those digital goods should be utilized to effectively monetize the infinite good. In this post you trumpet a clever marketing scheme in support of your economic model.

    But, in this case, there isn't an infinite good being offered at its marginal cost. There's no "free". Therefore it really doesn't support your model.

    In other words, absent that infinite good, this is just a book being sold on the old business model with good marketing. Without the free, "giving a reason to buy" is just plain old marketing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    hegemon13, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 8:27am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "I dabbled in writing, and there is basically no way to make money at it."

    Really? I think there are lots of successful authors that would argue with you. Not to mention that writing is what I do for a living, but it is probably not the type of writing you are referring to. I think what you really meant to say above is that it is *extremely difficuly* to make money money at *freelance* writing. Or, maybe you just meant that there is no way to make money by "dabbling" at it, which is true. However, that is true of every business that you don't work hard at and take seriusly.

    "...when you had to go through a publisher or self-publish (p.s., DO NOT EVER DO THE LATTER)."

    Again, good advice for a dabbler, but not necessarily for someone who is willing to work very hard. First of all, you have contradicted yourself here. Giving your novel away on the Internet, which you advise as a way to make some money, IS a form of self-publishing. Second, self-publishing can be far more profitable if you understand the work involved and the requirements surrounding it. You do have to work very hard to promote it, and it does not hurt to have a network of acquaintances in and around the industry.

    I have an uncle, who has become very successful by self-publishing two novels and one home-school curriculum. Both novels are award-winning (Ben Franklin Award, USA Book News Best Children's Novel, Foreward Magazine Book-of-the-Year Finalist, and several others). Both novels have sold out multiple runs. And, the two novels have provided him the credibility necessary to market speaking engagements and a home-school writing curriculum. Because he has self-published, the profit margins on the book and curriculum are MUCH higher than they would be otherwise, and he now has accomplished what many published authors cannot: he makes his entire living through writing. Self-publishing CAN be extremely rewarding, but you have to be willing to take on the work and the risk that the publisher would normally take on for you.

    There are definitely ways to make money by writing fiction, but none of them involve writing alone. All publishers expect the author to take on a promotional role, and every author must do a lot of self-promotion before they can be accepted by a publisher. Like anything else, dabblers won't get far.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 9:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Where's the "Free"?

    That's one of the marketing dilemmas Mike has written about somewhat extensively - understanding your product.

    You're not selling a book.

    When I buy the Lord of the Rings trilogy, am I paying for hundreds of sheets of paper, the professionally inked type-font, and the cover art? No. Those are bonuses. I'm paying for the story.

    Stories are free. Anyone can tell a story, anyone can spread a story, and it amounts to zero cost to them.

    There is always a "free" in every product. Some ARE the product (like music or stories), while others provide added value to the product. A car is not a free good, but the look, image, name and brand of a car is. That's what advertisements do, spread the freely distributed parts of the product to provide incentive to buy the scarce.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 9:46am

    Re:

    Only if the book has a notable value over just the story.

    If I distribute my story freely on the internet, and have a printed novel with identical content, and a plain paperback cover, is there a reason to buy the book?

    Some people prefer the feel of a physical book, so it does have greater value. As digital content becomes the norm, though, that value diminishes gradually.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 10:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Where's the "Free"?

    The whole theme of your writing here has been that digital goods are infinite and should be "free" as their marginal cost is near zero, and other scarcities related to those digital goods should be utilized to effectively monetize the infinite good. In this post you trumpet a clever marketing scheme in support of your economic model.

    Man. I've explained this probably 1,000 times -- perhaps even to you. I never realized it was so nuanced.

    It's not "should" be free. Should is a moral claim. It's that it eventually *WILL* be free, because that's just the basic economics. If you can figure out a way to charge -- such as by bundling it with all sorts of scarcities -- then that's great. That's the point.

    That's exactly what he did here.

    I moved no goalpoasts nor did I punt. I have been completely consistent to all along. Your inability to comprehend does not change that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    icon
    LostSailor (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 12:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Where's the "Free"?

    To be fair, Mike, you aren't always so nuanced. Many of your posts clearly imply that because it will be free it should be free now.

    If you can figure out a way to charge -- such as by bundling it with all sorts of scarcities -- then that's great. That's the point....That's exactly what he did here.

    But this author hasn't "figured out a way to charge" since there was nothing to figure out; it's the same old business model (sell a book) with some innovative marketing. That's just basic economics.

    This instance would fit with your new paradigm if the book were digitally available for free, which it's not, and the scarce, non-digitally reproducible extras in the physical book promoted sales of the physical product. At the moment, that's not the case.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 4:22pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Where's the "Free"?

    To be fair, Mike, you aren't always so nuanced. Many of your posts clearly imply that because it will be free it should be free now.

    No. Never "should". Not sure why you falsely insist on that. Should is the moral pronouncement. My argument is always that it would likely be *better* for the creator if it were free, because it would help their overall business model.

    But it's not "should".

    But this author hasn't "figured out a way to charge" since there was nothing to figure out; it's the same old business model (sell a book) with some innovative marketing. That's just basic economics.

    Um. You finally caught on. EVERYTHING I talk about is basic economics.

    This instance would fit with your new paradigm if the book were digitally available for free, which it's not, and the scarce, non-digitally reproducible extras in the physical book promoted sales of the physical product. At the moment, that's not the case.

    What new paradigm? I've never said a damn thing about a new paradigm. There's no new economics. It's the same old economics. It's just that the technology has changed.

    So, please, for the love of everyone here, stop telling me what I said when I never said it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    icon
    LostSailor (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 8:12am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Where's the "Free"?

    No. Never "should". Not sure why you falsely insist on that. Should is the moral pronouncement. My argument is always that it would likely be *better* for the creator if it were free, because it would help their overall business model.

    But it's not "should".


    I don't know where you got the idea that "should" is a moral pronouncement. I can be a moral pronouncement, depending on the context, but more often it's not. It's more frequently used to express logical or probably consequence. You can insist that it only means "moral pronouncement" but you'd be wrong.

    But I note that, once again, you are addressing use of language rather than the point that this author is using the same old business model for bookselling that been done for decades, just with some fancy marketing; cross-promotion using games and web site has been around for quite a while. If you think this is new, you haven't been paying attention.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2009 @ 9:00pm

    Re: Re:

    "Only if the book has a notable value over just the story."

    It's comments like these that make me depressingly aware of how little understanding the average person has about what goes into make "just" a story or "just" a book.

    A good novel (because we're talking about a novel here; a "book" is a physical object) contains things like quality writing, effective use of setting and dialogue, well-developed characters, and an interesting (or at least character-appropriate) plot. It's damn hard to pull off even a few of these in a single work, much less nail them all. And that is reduced to "just a story" and we are to believe that "just a story" isn't worth paying for.

    Now, I'm not saying authors "deserve" to get paid. I'm saying, if an author creates quality work, and you enjoy that work (and thereby benefit from it), there is (or should be) a common understanding that you reward the author for the benefit his/her work has brought to you. In our economy, under the system, the standard way to do that is to pay the author an agreed-upon amount. Why this is a problem for some people is completely beyond me.

    I get (really, I do) the idea that the price of anything that can be near-infinitely reproduced for near-zero cost will, according to the market, eventually fall to near-zero. However, what is being reproduced is the finished product. But there are not near-infinite quality novels. There are very few (even allowing for variations of taste). So therefore, in reality, there isn't a "near-infinite" good, only a near-infinite reproduction of a good that's damn hard to create.

    What I hear in this article (and many others on here) is that a quality novel can earn money for the author, once that novel is digitized, only by dressing it up with wasteful knickknacks that add to our accumulation of junk or by serving as a "resume" by which an author can earn money for giving talks, etc. In other words, not on the original creation, but only on related derivatives. When in reality, the only thing of real value is the original creation.

    Critics: I know you'll read my "only" above and jump on that, telling me there are infinite ways to be creative in how you market the novel. This may be so. And this is the job of publicists. However, it doesn't change the fact that you're displacing the value from the original work (the novel) onto derivatives (packaging, t-shirts, talks, etc.). It's insulting to anyone who has ever created something of value or valued something created by another.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    icon
    Bryan (profile), Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 9:53am

    Re: Re: Re:

    To AC #41:

    You have written a very eloquent moral defense for payment to authors. Economically it does not stand up. How does one determine what a "good novel" is in this society? Do we have critics who judge the writing, story elements, etc. and tell us whether it is worthy of payment? Obviously not. When it comes down to it, we value a novel, or anything else for that matter, by the price we are willing to pay for it, not for the effort involved in producing it. Someone may have spent ten years writing the Great American Novel, but if no one buys the novel, it has no value.

    The problem with this business model is that these days the words can be replicated for free. Therefore the marginal cost is essentially zero. Economics 101 shows that goods are priced at their marginal cost. If you are an author and expect to get paid simply by writing a novel, good luck. Copyright essentially acts to try limit the basic economics by making it illegal for anyone but the rights' holder to produce the novel infinitely. However, this just creates a black market. It doesn't really stop the infinite production. Ignoring this is burying your head in the sand.

    Marketing has nothing to do with this part of the equation as with infinite goods, demand is irrelevant. Everyone who wants one can have a copy. So what. Marketing simply exists to spur demand.

    The novel itself can be reproduced infinitely. The original manuscript IS a scarce good, but the copies are not. The fact is most people don't want to purchase the original manuscript, and most authors want to sell more than the original manuscript. Trying to make a dichotomy between the original and a copy is irrelevant. And insisting that an item has an intrinsic value is specious. That value only exists in the desire of someone to have the object.

    This is not about selling an object or a novel in and of itself. It is about creating a sustainable business model. If an author doesn't want to get his or her hands dirty doing anything but writing, the author better find someone who will or get another job to pay the rent. Playing ostrich or feeling insulted is not conducive to earning an income.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This