Harvard Business Review has some really interesting articles this month (Jul-Aug 09), particularly a Q&A with writer Cory Doctorow that neatly and succinctly summarizes so many of the issues I’m facing as I work to develop the businesses of creative people in this era. Doctorow, of course, is the poster boy for giving his content away free and in so doing developing a huge following who then go and fork out cash to buy the printed book – sci-fi in his case.
By his own admission, “Art is an economically irrational activity,” but Doctorow believes you can actually make some money out of it by allowing copying. “If you are making art that you expect people not to copy, then you are not making contemporary art… Besides, doing the moral thing – not hypocritically damming fans for the kind of copying we all do – can also make commercial sense. I post all my books for free on my website, and people can remix them, translate them, distribute them to friends; they can do anything they want so long as it is for noncommercial use. The model works because for most people a free electronic book is not a replacement for a printed book, but rather than enticement to buy one. I sell the hell out of printed books by giving away electronic ones.”