Debunking The 'But People Just Want Stuff For Free' Myth

from the debunking-the-myths dept

One of the popular myths we always hear about content-based business models these days is that "but people just want stuff for free." This has been debunked so many times, it's silly, but it's worth debunking again. One of the easiest ways to debunk it is to show examples of people being more than happy to pay, even if the content at the core of what they're paying for is available for free. We saw this, a few years back, when Trent Reznor sold out of his $300 "Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition Package" of the Ghosts I-IV album, even though all of the tracks were available as a free download under a Creative Common license. To some extent, we saw this ourselves, when we offered our own CwF+RtB packages, and the more expensive packages outsold the cheaper ones.

Cory Doctorow now adds to the evidence pile, writing about the results of his recent experiment in self-publishing with tiered offerings, which included 250 specially bound limited edition hardcover versions for $250. In his latest update, he explains how those were so popular he's going back to create similar limited editions for older books as well:
You see, in trying everything--audiobooks, POD, limited editions--I've discovered the thing that captures the public's interest is also the thing that makes the most money is also the thing that has the least logistics: super-premium limited editions. Over and over again, when I describe With a Little Help to people, they fixate on the limited editions. I've had dozens of e-mails from people practically begging to buy the $275 editions I'm doing--and I stand to make $50,000 or more from them.

So that's my next project, I've decided, after With a Little Help is done and I'm back on my feet: limited editions, 100 copies each, of all my previous novels, each one elaborate, personal, beautiful, and amazing. It helps that my new office is underneath the London Hackspace, a co-op through which I have 24/7 access to a 3D printer and a laser cutter/etcher.

For my novel Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves a Town (a fantasy that features a trio of brothers who nest like Russian dolls), I'm thinking I will do a full-size edition, bind it, then laser cut a 66% rectangle out of the middle of the pages; print and bind a 2/3 size miniature, slip it into the void; and then cut another void out of it, nestling a tiny quarter-sized hardcover in the middle. I'll charge whatever it costs me to print plus $150, and print and bind them on demand, in tens, and sell as many as I can up to 100. I also figure I'll hold back five copies from each limited, and in a decade or so, I can have custom wooden boxes made for five sets, and auction them off for whatever the market will bear.
But people just want stuff for free, right? Especially the folks who follow the likes of Cory Doctorow... Except, of course, that's simply not true.

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  1. icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), 22 Dec 2010 @ 12:21pm

    Re: Free sodomy!

    If I could afford a $500 super-limited edition of a Cory Doctorow book (Little Brother, to be specific) I'd jump upon it. Sadly, I'm broke. Betwixt being sodomized via taxes and generally low pay combined with high cost of living--I pretty much have no disposable income. (Only posable income...)

    If I'd never read the free electronic version of, well every book Cory Doctorow has ever written, I would not be a fan. Likely I wouldn't have read them. In which case, I would not care about a limited edition anything.

    Do you understand yet, or are all cowards examples of imbecility?

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