New essay: Money flows to the author is now up

September 10th 2012

Posted by: in: From the Author, News and Updates, Non-fiction
Tags: , , , , , ,

Sorry that the title of the post is a bit ronseal, as they say. I do have other news, but I’ll attempt to post that either later today or later this week.

Anyway, the full text of this year’s Greenbelt talk – “Money flows to the author: making books pay in the 21st Century” is now up. If you would like to hear me instead, the talk was recorded for the first time ever, and is available for a small charge from

5 Responses to “New essay: Money flows to the author is now up”

  • Jon says:

    Well, consider me blind for not seeing this post the first visit around… thanks! I think you’re doing a generally good job of presenting the dynamics involved here.

    Now, I wish to point out something which struck especially close to what I often discuss with friends and family. My apologies if my ramblings are a bit hard to read in this narrow comment window.

    You write:

    “The usual morality would suggest that creators should be paid for their creations, but instead it’s been replaced by a morality which insists that everything on the internet should be free, and if you charge for content, you’re the one doing something wrong.”

    I posit that this is simply not the majority case. What I feel myself and experience both amongst “casual” and enthusiast music and literature consumers everywhere is something a lot more complex with many different aspects intertwining. People don’t seem to be particularly opposed to paying for content or to consider charging for digital content wrong, even in the “hard core” piracy communities (as a matter of fact, it seems like the more someone would consider themselves a “pirate”, the more that person is likely to have strong moral philosophies about the matter, see the political PirateParty-parties of Europe).

    I see a bunch of issues coming together here which end up forming a general aversion to paying for each and every piece of digital media “we” consume. All of them are based on the fact that paying for the individual copies of a service rendered has always only been a way to solve the problem of funding that one service, or in economic terms the tragedy of the commons. Many of them are reinforced by the history of how publishing has been done until now.

    For one many feel an intuitive sense of injustice when paying for a one-time service (like performing a song once) over and over again. Without taking into consideration whether you’ve already payed for it once or not. Without knowing whether, overall, the creator has already been recompensed to your satisfaction in terms of units sold overall. All this is now multiplied by the fact that since the days of wax records the cost of producing another copy of the one-time unit of work has decreased to practically zero.

    This leads to a perceived disconnect between the work you allegedly fund and the payment you provide. I say allegedly because another aspect that has been contributing to people being less willing to pay for another copy of a service rendered is the history of publishing in general which features time and again publishers abusing their content creators by pocketing the main share of the profits, limiting their freedom of expression and otherwise locking them into artificial usage frameworks. People have become weary of content distributors haranguing them with region codes, pointless DRM and ads in already payed-for content. People have become being uncomfortable paying for something knowing that only a small part of that money is actually going to their object of admiration. People are tired of disproportionately large fines and measures taken against copyright infringers. Many are conflicted because even though they might want to support their favorite artists, they do not wish to support a system which has helped to erode internet neutrality and actual freedom of speech as well as due process in many countries around the world.

    These are the symptoms of awarding copies of information the same protection as physical property which is the result of trying to enforce a monopoly on how the original work is to be funded. This brings us to the crux of the conflict many experience, leading them to “pirate”.

    With the dwindling cost – in every sense of the word – of copying a bunch of information comes the realisation that paying for individual copies of a service rendered is an unnecessarily round-about way of financing the original work.

    The internet and digital instantaneous payment methods now make it possible to finance the creation of the original work directly. With one elegant stroke we get rid of all the problems our old way of solving the original dilemma introduced. All the resources that were tied up in enforcing artificial scarcity are freed up and excuses for civil liberties infringing legislation are lost.

    We achieve our original goal without the bad side-effects of our original solution which was forced on us by the circumstances of that era’s level of technology.

    The ultimate question then is whether this is all naive ideology with faulty logic or whether it actually works. From what I can see, it works. I will provide a list of examples below, but in general what is necessary are widely known and safe hubs where people can advertise their services and provide the means of giving support in a hassle-free, open and direct way.
    Kickstarter is the main player here at the moment obviously and it has already worked for many, especially in the realm of software and hardware projects. It also brings consumers and producers closer together, which many consider worth paying for in itself.

    Some examples off the top of my head of successful direct funding of the original work:

    (Game) ProjectEternity –
    (Game) PA –
    (Book) Tobias S. Buckell –
    (Music) Album financed in advance –
    (Hardware) Virtual Reality –

  • Melvina says:

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto
    a coworker who has been conducting a little research
    on this. And he in fact bought me dinner due to the fact that I discovered
    it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending some time to
    discuss this matter here on your blog.

  • Hey! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay.
    I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

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