Connecting Authors To Tangible Goods They Can Sell?

from the business-models... dept

When we talk about business models for content, one question we get asked a lot is how these business models could possibly apply to authors. We're always told that such business models might work for music, but couldn't possibly work for authors. To be honest, I find this sort of response incredibly uncreative. If you look around, it's actually not hard to find authors who are making use of new and innovative business models, and even publishers who are willing to embrace that kind of thinking. This is definitely a good thing, but we're always interested in hearing new and more examples of this happening.

Ross Pruden alerts us to an LA Times story about a company called OpenSky that is apparently helping authors implement additional business models by helping them find tangible products they can sell in association with their books. Indeed, the whole concept seems to fit in with our concept of using infinite goods to make scarce goods more valuable:
A cookbook author, for example, not only sells books through OpenSky but also hawks a favorite barbecue sauce and grill. The author pockets 50% of the profit, with the rest going to OpenSky and others involved in the transaction.


David Hale Smith, a Texas literary agent, was about the only one who hadn't morphed roles since Naples last saw him. After they sat down at a table near that escalator, Smith immediately handed her a copy of a client's newest novel: "So Cold the River" by Michael Koryta. Smith mentioned that it's set in an old hotel in central Indiana known for its Pluto Water, believed to have healthful effects.

Naples lit up: "If [Koryta] was on OpenSky, the novel could be tied to a promotion of the hotel. He could have a button on his site for readers to buy the book and the water." (OpenSky would find a supplier to bottle and ship it.) She described other commercial possibilities: a sneak-peak download of a chapter of his next book, a "webinar" with him discussing his stories.
I can already hear the critics complaining about this sort of "crass commercialism" that I'm sure is "destroying" the concept of "art for art's sake," but I find it odd that those who focus on the whole "art for art's sake" argument are the same folks who also complain that the changing marketplace means content creators can't make money any more. No one is saying anyone has to adopt these models -- just that for those who feel comfortable doing so, it's now easier than ever to embrace infinite concepts -- and use them to make scarce goods more valuable.

That said, after reading about all of this, I went and looked at OpenSky, and I don't see any of this on their website. Instead, it looks like a plain old store. If they're really focused on helping content creators, it seems like they would be a lot better off promoting content creators on their site as well.

Filed Under: authors, business models, sales, scarcities, selling, tangible
Companies: opensky

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  1. identicon
    sumquy, 5 Aug 2010 @ 8:55am

    Hi, my name is Sum Guy, and I'm a pirate. I read your blog almost every day, and find myself agreeing with you about 90% of the time, but when I read your posts about CwF+RtB I can't help but think that you're missing the point.

    I consider myself a fairly typical pirate. I watch 20-30 movies a year, but haven't bought or rented a dvd in years. I read 75-100 books a year, but haven't touched a book in years. Up until about a year ago, I pirated all my music, but now I buy almost everything from Itunes. Why the difference? Because I don't really care about the price, or the "content producer", or the publisher, or any of that really. What I care about (in typical hedonistic fashion) is convenience. Getting what I want right now. When I want a tv show, I go to the studio web site (nope not there). How about Itunes (nope not there). How about the pirate bay (yep there it is). Books? Nope won't be published in ebook for 3 months. So why is music different? Because I'm not paying for the file. I can get that for free. I'm willing to pay for the service. Easy to find, fits in to my organization software with no fuss. Easy to move to any device I want to put it on. I agree with some of the above posters in that I don't care about t-shirts, or bbq sauce, or any of that. If that content producer would just give me the content when I want it, I would pay a reasonable price for that and they can make a living. It's not ideology that drove me to piracy, it's their stupid and quiotic drive to control how and when I consume.

    P.S. Author Brandon Sanderson has done a lot of the things you suggest in terms of trinkets, charts, self publishing free books in ebook format. Plus he is a really good author. Check him out at

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