Cory recently published a book that is garnering praise from critics, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town. The same day his publisher, Tor Books, released printed copies to bookstores, the e-version was available for free downloads. Well, this is unusual, yes? Most publishers/content owners will claim that doing this draws potential paying readers away to the free version....indeed this fear is at the root of publishers' recent requests of Google to stop digitizing content under copyright.
Not happening, according to Doctorow in the interview. "For almost every writer, the number of sales they lose because people never hear of their book is far larger than the sales they'd lose because people can get it for free online," Doctorow says. "The biggest threat we face isn't piracy, it's obscurity."
This sounds Long Tailish to me....what can't be found, won't be valued. And what isn't valued, doesn't get bought or borrowed.
And another reason Doctorow wants his books available as ebooks is to encourage people to add to them and change them:
"When you download my book, please: Do weird and cool stuff with it. Imagine new things that books are for. Then tell me about it ... so I can be the first writer to figure out what the next writerly business model is." He's not thinking that the future of books is simply reading book-length text on a screen instead of on paper pages. He's thinking it's something that happens when you decouple the content from the medium.And Mark Federman has this to say on the topic:
We are increasingly learning that, with the changes resulting from ubiquitous connectivity and pervasive proximity, the most sustainable sources of revenue will become increasingly indirect - with sometimes two or three levels of indirection from the nominal product or service. That's a bit of magic that will take our industrial-age borne corporate mentalities a while to understand.
And this is interesting in a "small world" kind of way. Dorothea Salo, recently degreed librarian, Caveat Lector blogger and the new Digital Repository Services Librarian for George Mason University also is an HTML wizard who did the mark-up for this most recent Doctorow book as well as for his previous one, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.
It's all magically interesting!