The Future of Books

I’ve mentioned Cory Doctrow on this site before. He’s written some really good books like Down and Out in the Magic Kindom (one of my personal favorites). The interesting thing is he releases his books for free download on his website, and he encourages readers to convert the books into different formats for others to download.

USA Today has an article about some trends in books today. Most of the article concerns Harry Potter, but Cory Doctrow also gets a few paragraphs. Here’s a great quote from Mr. Doctrow concerning why he gives his work away:

“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.”

You can tell that this guy really gets it. Don’t fight the future, embrace it. The Internet is just another tool to reach an even greater audience. It’s not stealing if no one would’ve ever paid for it in the first place.

This argument applies just as well to music. When radio first came out, many artists refused to let their songs be played. They thought that if people could listen to their music for free on the radio, no on would ever buy their album. Now, those artists are lost in obscurity, and musicians with popular songs on the radio sell the most albums.

Instead of trying to sue fans who download music, bands should be treating the Internet more like a radio station. Give songs away for free to build a larger following. I download songs to get a chance to hear a band that I can’t hear on the radio. If I like the music, I buy the CD. If I really like it, I’ll probably even buy tickets to see the band perform live.

Make great music, or write a great book, and people will pay for it. The Internet can help artists connect with those people.