I listen to a lot of podcasts; my favorites include Slate’s Culture Gabfest and Political Gabfest, and TWiT‘s This Week in Tech and MacBreak Weekly. A new favorite is the TWiT network’s Triangulation. Leo Laporte and Tom Merritt do in-depth interviews with interesting tech people, such as Ray Kurzweil, Stephen Wolfram, and Michael Geist. The most recent Triangulation has a great interview with sci-fi author Cory Doctorow. Cory is on the forefront of finding ways to profit in the world of digital and networked media. One of his experiments involves selling or giving away ebook versions of a book and selling a $250 fancy hand-stitched hardback that includes an actual page of a manuscript from one of several notable author friends of Cory’s who donated those to him for this purpose.
Another idea he had is also interesting. For his books that he self-publishes, he asks for donations too. But for ones that use a publisher, he feels asking for a donation would be unfair–a way of getting around the publisher’s right to a cut. So what he does is this. First he solicits requests from libraries etc. for hardback copies of his books. He then compiles a list of people who need a free hardcopy of his books. Then, he gives away ebooks but asks anyone who downloads it for free, and who does not want a hard copy, but who wants to make a donation, to fund the purchase of a hard copy for one of the deserving libraries on his list. So that way the ebook consumer gets to buy the book which goes to a library, the publisher is happy, and Doctorow gets his royalty. Innovative!
Doctorow also has great comments about the viability–or lack thereof–of DRM etc. As he points out, if you lock up computers, encrypt and DRM files, you make your work hard to find, more obscure. And he says, while it may be difficult to find ways to profit off of your fame, no one can make a profit off of obscurity. So it’s better to open things up and realize piracy is here and find a way to coexist with it, since the alternative is obscurity.
See also Innovations that Thrive without IP.