Trigger unhappy??

Seven Poole, who wrote Trigger Happy, the first decent book on videogames (at least the first decent book I read on the topic) has a thoughtful post on his blog after making it available for free pdf download. After 30,000 downloads, and not many paypal contributions, he concludes that giving ebooks away is not a business model, no matter how much the Techdirt and Slashdot crowd might want it to be. For Poole, the idealists suggesting that creative types can survive by giving away their creativity (and making a living performing live or on merchandising) are wrong. As he suggests to the Slashdot readership:

Oh Mr Freetard, you work as a programmer, do you? How interesting. So do you perform all your corporate programming duties for free, and earn your keep by selling personally branded mousemats on the side?

He then goes on to  suggest that the current advantage of print over electronic makes e-books a potential promotional tool; at least until e-books take over. Then:

A reasonable outcome, perhaps, would be something like an iTunes for books, where people choose to buy (DRM-free or at least DRM-lite) copies because it’s still easier for most folk than hunting down a torrent. That way writers would still see some kind of modest revenue from their efforts. Otherwise, if people can’t earn money from writing books, then books will only be written by the rich, and by people in their spare time.

It’s a complicated argument, and I guess that’s the point. Rewarding (or monetising (!)) creativity is not about simple binaries. Some things will work for some people; some things won’t. And no amount of sloganeering can reduce the complexity of the world to a one-size-fits-all solution. Figuring out a way through the jungle over the next decade or so is going to be very interesting…




4 comments so far

  1. Mark Thwaite on

    The arguments are complex … and contradictory. But one thing is for sure, most writers make next to no money out of their writing now, today, with the current publishing model.

    In the UK, 2000+ books are published each week. A writer struggles for ages to write a book, if they are very lucky it gets published, and then — no-one cares! It gets drowned and disappears in a sea of other titles. Anonymity is the curse for most, and no (or precious few) sales is the concomitant reality.

    E-books (and other web solutions) won’t solve this, but pretending that the current situation is any use to most non-famous authors just isn’t correct …

  2. shermanfyoung on

    Mark, you’re right. The arguments are complex. Discoverability is problematic across media forms, but particularly for printed books. I know e-books won’t solve this overnight, but they open the door to other ways of being found. For example, their content might be googled, distribution becomes global – and not at the whim of a bookshop buyer etc…

    But speaking as just another non-famous author, you’re absolutely correct about the current situation!!

  3. […] found an interesting post on that whole e-books issue (via The Book Is Dead). Steven Poole, British author and journalist, recently conducted a little experiment. He released […]

  4. […] and profitable avenue. Amongst other things, Engst discusses the Steven Poole example (which I cited here a few weeks ago): We dabbled with voluntary payments a while back with what we called PayBITS, and […]

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