Information “wants” to be free — but reporters want to be paid. This is a hotly debated topic these days, especially in the journalistic halls where Stephens Press makes its home. “Free” is spilling over into books. Stephens Press, and many other publishers, have long provided a “free” chapter from our books online, so prospective buyers can sample the wares (we can’t offer taste, touch, smell online). Chris Anderson’s (of The Long Tail fame) newest book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price, will supposedly be free in certain formats with the “premium” edition being a printed book. How this will sort itself out is anyone’s guess. An author with a huge mega-seller under his belt is in a better position to bet the farm that enough people will pay actual dollars to buy a book when the content is free in other forms. Debut authors and writers of more esoteric or limited-audiences tomes probably can’t make that model work under any circumstances. I can assure you that most book authors do not make their living from their books. Most have day jobs or supplement their income with freelance writing. But certainly they expect some compensation for the year(s) of their life that disappeared into the writing of their book. Here’s an intro to the Publishers Weekly article — click below to read it all and let us know what you think of this approach to “selling” books.
Free-For-All: Anderson, “Free” Book, Sparks a Backlash Online and Among Battered Media Industry
By Andrew Albanese — Publishers Weekly — 7/9/2009
Under normal circumstances, that Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson’s latest book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price, logged over 17,000 free views in one day on upstart “social publisher” Scribd would be the story. The story, however, might lurk in the comments left on the Scribd web site.
“Well it’s not really “FREE” at all, is it?” groused one unsatisfied customer, complaining the book couldn’t be downloaded, but read only in the browser on Scribd. “False advertising!” screeched another assessment. When Anderson weighed in to tell Scribd readers that there would be free downloads available next week, “why not make an e-book available already?” came the response, which derisively labeled publisher Hyperion as “old school.”
Welcome to Chris Anderson’s world. In the weeks leading up to this week’s publication of Free, the author of the bestselling The Long Tail has seen his latest book assailed by traditional journalists, including the New Yorker’s Malcolm Gladwell, characterized by reviewers as simple, even dangerous, and at the same time slammed by others for not being free enough. A controversy over passages lifted from Wikipedia didn’t help.