Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Monkey Shine

One of the better upshots of taking courses as an old man is that I get to read things I normally would not.  Like the book Epic by Connor Kostick, which is probably more appropriate for my 12 year old then me, but which I secretly loved.  It's the usual tale of boy meets game, game falls for boy, boy finds way to succeed in game, people who run game get all pissy like old people do, people come after boy and his friends, boy and his friends succeed in totally destroying and usurping the previous system of society and replace it with god only knows what, but they had a good time doing it.  Phew.  You try typing that all in one big breath.

More recently we've been reading some Cory Doctorow, whom I happen to think is brilliant in a very uber geeky, cross between Elvis Costello and the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, sort of way.  We've worked our way through several essays in his book Content, and I always find the topic intriguing and lucid, sometimes peculiar, but tasty.  Reminds me how hungry I am just now, damn it.

One thing I'm not sure about, though, is this concept that giving away your books online drives print sales.  He states this numerous times throughout the book, and yet never offers anything other then anecdotal evidence for this comment.  It exists because CD says it does, and because his publisher lets him do it. 

I've been following the copyright debate very closely since the advent of Napster.  Prior to Napster, the trade in copyrighted works with brisk but entirely underground, hidden, something people did in the dark, nebulous corners of the internet.  Napster brought that trade into the light of day, gave it a sunshiney goal, and said "have at thee, copyright laws."  I admit, I tried Napster and was hooked for a short while.  But after a time, I put it aside and decided that using something I had not paid for and had zero intention of ever paying for did not jibe well with my own personal moral compass.  I cast no judgement or dispersions upon those who have used Napster or it's torrent descendants and continue to do so, it just was not something I could bring myself to continue doing.

Except (there's always one of those)... when it came to school, programs I needed to learn for a class or other purpose, then and always then I have no qualms about using Kazaa or Lemon Lime or whatever the latest favored torrent is to download and install those programs.  It's how I learned 3DS Max, as well as Photoshop, Illustrator and Adobe Flash (until I won licensed copies of those last three in a game design contest).  For educational purposes... yes, I can justify that, it passes my own personal moral sniff test.

I guess I really want to learn more from Doctorow about his ability to make a living while giving away his works, and how much documented proof they have that the free content has driven sales.  I can see how putting a limited scope of your work out there might do so by increasing interest in more casual readers which would drive them to purchase other of your works.  I can even agree that copyright law is stupid in its current form, and should be reduced to something sane.  Let's say 3 years from the first date of publishing a work.  After that, it all becomes free to be copied anytime by anyone.  But I just can not fathom that you would get more sales from giving it all away.

Then again, I'd take ANY sales at this point.  I suppose I should try to actually finish a book first.  Or at least a short story.  Who knows... maybe my 12 year old will read that instead of Epic... or Harry Potter.

Gotta have dreams, man....

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