Business Models

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
books, file sharing, steffen itterheim

Author Tries Honest Approach To File Sharers: Not Upset, But If You Want To Support Me, Here's How

from the good-for-him dept

Jay Roberts points us to an increasingly common occurrence that we've been seeing lately. Rather than flipping out and going ballistic over file sharing, software engineer and author (of a book on iPhone game development) Steffen Itterheim discovered (as he expected) that his book was available on file sharing networks, but rather than freak out, he just posted a nice letter saying he totally understood why people were file sharing, and then asked politely for people who wanted to support his work to buy a copy of the book -- and provided easy links for them to do so. While I'm not convinced this strategy is as sustainable as focusing on giving people real scarce reasons to buy, it's still nice to see more folks not reacting in angry ways that tend to only make the problem worse.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2010 @ 10:14pm

    Steve Gibson kinda takes this approach with SpinRite. "You have to pay for it, but if you pirate it, I'm not going to sue you."

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

  2. icon
    Michael Long (profile), Dec 15th, 2010 @ 11:55pm

    "...scarce reasons to buy."

    Surely he can sell them a t-shirt.

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

  3. icon
    manbearpig (profile), Dec 16th, 2010 @ 12:24am


    how many t-shirts do you think people want or need?

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

  4. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 12:36am

    Is Ricky Gervais the original Anonymous Coward?

    Someone was talking about Steve Gibson, and I just had to chime in.

    So did you see The Daily Show where Ricky Gervais trolled the show? If you missed it, here's a link:

    In the spirit of Steve Gibson and everyone around here, I have to say that the full capabilities of the iPhone platform has are yet to be discovered. About a month ago, I found an iPhone app called Layar. It's an augmented reality app from a company out of the Netherlands.

    Using Layar, I can augment reality around me based on a variety of sources such as Tweets, Panoramio, and Flickr. It almost makes you wish you removed the EXIF info from your pictures, doesn't it? Also, it makes you kinda wish that Mike embraced the worldwide platform behind it to have a $2.99 app in the app store.

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

  5. icon
    testcore (profile), Dec 16th, 2010 @ 12:49am

    Re: Scarcities

    Anyone else heard that Humble Indie Bundle is back? ( Apparently, they sold plenty of t-shirts the first time around.

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

  6. identicon
    Ken Shear, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 1:08am

    Scarcity based book sales

    Interesting concept, scarcity based book sales, given that for a very long time most books that people need have been available in libraries for free. Plus, there are actually several studies that show, availability of books for free on line actually improves sales. Some people say, "common sense" or something dictates that people won't buy books if they can get the book content for free, but they can't point to any actual evidence that this is so. This is why we have started a website,, making in-copyright books available for free online reading, including books we've published and books from other publishers. All the books are also available to buy in printed form and many in Kindle, and it hasn't hurt sales at all. I like the spirit of Steffan's letter, but it's pretty long and, if free downloads actually do increase the sales of his books, somewhat unnecessary from our perspective.

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

  7. identicon
    Frosty840, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 1:35am

    Re: Scarcity based book sales

    It amazes me how uncommon the use of the "LIBRARIES EXIST" argument is in the ebook debate.

    Personally, my problem with Mike's "scarce goods" argument has always been that I'm really, absolutely not a "scarce goods" kind of person, and I don't have any love of ruthlessly exploiting that aspect of my personality.

    I'd rather meet the content creators halfway and pay out some token amount for their infinite goods, and leave the scarce goods to people who want to fill their homes with data-bearing objects.

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

  8. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 16th, 2010 @ 1:57am

    Re: Re: Scarcity based book sales

    I'd rather meet the content creators halfway and pay out some token amount for their infinite goods, and leave the scarce goods to people who want to fill their homes with data-bearing objects.

    Just a note: scarce goods are not limited to *tangible* goods. In fact, that's a rather small percentage of the scarce goods I normally talk about.

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

  9. identicon
    teka, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 2:00am

    Re: Re: Scarcity based book sales

    and the wonder of the internet and a million tiny technological details means that in the end they can do both. These people want shirts or special albums covers that link together to form Voltron, great. This person just wants to give us some money to encourage us to create more infinite product (finished works) with our scarce resource (time, talent, etc)? great. we can work with them too.

    Nothing has to be all-or-nothing anymore.

    The Scarce Goods argument seems like it is more for the old-school content industry thinking patterns. "But if we are not selling them plastic discs with some mylar stuck on, we have nothing to sell! Nothing! Dooooom!"

    and then you take them by the hand and show that that you can make more money charging more people less, or more money by charging fewer people more, or (oddly) sometimes even more money by charging them nothing at all because it makes them want this other thing, or that thing over there.

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

  10. icon
    Kaotik4266 (profile), Dec 16th, 2010 @ 3:59am

    Re: Is Ricky Gervais the original Anonymous Coward?

    Oh god Thankyou for sharing that Daily Show clip! It's the funniest thing I've seen in a long time! :D
    (Totally off-topic, I know, but it's seriously hilarious!)

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

  11. identicon
    Darryl, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 5:09am

    Allways justifying the freeloaders..

    Once again that is all well and good, it wont work ofcourse, you can ask and beg all he wants, it wont make any difference..

    The only difference it will make is that he will probably not bother to write books of that type anymore...

    Especially, as he knows there is no point, everyone is going to steal it anyway, he is not going to break even for the time he spend learning the subject then writing about it..

    So if you were hoping for more of this guy, updated or with new technology, or maybe his is just a very good and clear teacher..

    So he is not rewarded for his effort, he is not paid enough to pay for his effort.. So next time.. there wont be a next time..

    Most good writers, and programmers, are not also stupid.. and they also tend to need things like food, houses and so on.. things that cost money..

    That he does not get because some morons what something for free.. Something that means nothing to them, they refuse to even attribute value to it.. yet for the creator of that work it might mean everything to him, it might mean the difference between eating or not..

    Or taking the risk of not being able to eat, if you spend your time and effort on a creation, that someone else will steal and profit from on your behalf..

    And its illegal, immoral, inconsiderate, immature, and a few other 'ills' im sure !!..

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

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 5:17am

    You have to embrace it. It is not going away. To me it's the same as High School. We passed cassettes of the latest bands. We didn't have the money to buy albums then either. Bottom line is only rich kids and drug dealers have money to buy records. Get real.

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

  13. identicon
    abc gum, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 5:22am

    You can get more money with honey than vinegar

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

  14. identicon
    micromegas, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 5:26am

    Re: Re:

    Never doubt the amount of tshirts hipsters will adorn themselves with....-

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

  15. identicon
    ASTROBOI, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 6:19am

    So basically the request is "if you downloaded my book, be a good guy and buy a copy, even though you already have one." When you comply the publisher will get....maybe 15 bucks, the store or website a few more bucks and the post office will get three or four bucks. If you buy it locally your state will collect a couple bucks too. And the author? Well, he gets 75 cents, maybe a buck. I wonder if he would be ok with you buying a used copy, or just checking it out of the library for a week? I'd live with simply sending the guy HIS share but I'm sure the publisher would throw a fit if that was suggested. If there was an easy answer we wouldn't be reading articles like this.

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

  16. identicon
    abc gum, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 6:29am


    Is he self published?

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

  17. icon
    bdhoro (profile), Dec 16th, 2010 @ 9:07am

    Re: Allways justifying the freeloaders..

    Paypal donations. Or sell something scarce that isn't infinitely copyable for free.

    As some1 else mentioned in the comments, who would pay for the book after you already got it for free? Why as me to buy what I already have?

    And yes its free because thats what the price of online text is.

    Maybe he is a good writer, maybe he is a good programmer/engineer, maybe he writes good applications (which have more profitability than books). Maybe in these subjects he's pretty smart.

    But it is clear throughout all of this that in business, he's stupid.

    Now he may not write another book again, but its not because don't value his text, its because he failed to monetize his endeavor into writing.

    And if people steal his book and then profit from it, that means they figured out a way to monetize the information that he was unable to.

    There's a million ways he could have been smart and made money as an author and programmer/engineer, but he chose to tell people to pay him for something they already have - thats just straight bad business and a huge waste of resources.

    So maybe I'll look this guy up if I need to write some programs, and i'll probably "steal" his book. What he should do is check the internet for a book he can steal on how to make money in his profession.

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

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 9:13am

    Not the most sustainable method certainly, but it's the reason I bought some techdirt gear a while back. (Still loving the hoody, though it was too thin for when I lived up north)

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

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 9:58am

    Re: Allways justifying the freeloaders..

    While I understand your point of view in this subject, I find that just asking people for money, or purchasing a ligitimate version of his book will not do much to increase his profits since he is not giving the people a good reason to buy.

    I wanted to purchase a paper copy of a particular book on DSLR photography, but found the price to be to high (upwards of $120). The author also sold the exact same book for $20, in PDF form. I could have easily just searched online and downloaded it for free off the internet, but I bought the PDF. Why? Because it included free updates to the book if the information changed, I was added to his newsletter that included techniques to improve the quality and composition of my photography, and I can purchase tickets to his conferences/lectures in advance before they go on sale to the general public.

    What is the other guy doing to give the customers a reason to buy, besides just asking?

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

  20. icon
    DanVan (profile), Dec 16th, 2010 @ 10:48am

    You read stories like this and wish the guy could get money for a product HE MADE and wants to be compensated for....which seems quite reasonable

    Then you read stories about companies suing grandmothers for 10 songs and wish they would go bankrupt

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

  21. icon
    Steven (profile), Dec 16th, 2010 @ 10:49am

    Near a dear to me

    This is a subject that is very near and dear to me. I'm not a book writer, but a software engineer. The scarcity that I sell right now is my time (and I make a pretty good living at it). However there are a half dozen application ideas that I want to produce (you know, in my copious amounts of free time :) ). Some to donate for the betterment of others, and others to make money from. As my financial needs are currently met I focus whatever spare time it dedicate to side projects to those not meant to earn me direct profit (although if they go well they will certainly improve my ability to charge for my time in the future).

    I strongly believe that software in general will be $free (not wants to or should be, but will be). I do, however, struggle on how I would make a living with software, after I've produced it, without charging for the actual software. May have to just keep charging for my time (which does seem to work well).

    The way I see it this is just getting started and physical goods are going to start following the same trends. I can certainly see a point where the entire supply line for a product is completely automated with little or no marginal cost. Watching the reaction of these content producers I'm a little afraid of the reaction when the marginal cost of many/most/all physical goods approaches zero.

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

  22. identicon
    Allan R, Wallace, Dec 16th, 2010 @ 11:34am

    free downloads of books

    As Seth Godin showed when he released an entire book as a free pdf (idea virus), it can still become a best seller when later released. I bought a copy, after having downloaded and read the book for free. Seth calls this type of sale a souvenir. A best selling souvenir.

    I've written a hacker novel that is online at no charge - *hackers fighting for human rights* - that I will re-edit and sell in 2011 as an inexpensive e-book on Amazon, the Nook, Kindle, iPod, etc.

    Cory Doctorow quoting someone else, stated something like "It's not copies that threaten authors, but obscurity."

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

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