The next time you hear a record company say they want to step on freely distributed online music for the sake of recording artists, think on this.
Also, an article in NetSurfer Digest (edited by fellow Internet Press Guild member Laurie Nyveen) reports on an interesting experiment by Baen Books. Laurie charges for access to NSD, but here’s the gist: the Baen author Eric Flint put the text of his books online, and saw sales jump 200 percent. Says Flint:
By far the main enemy any author faces, except a handful of ones who are famous to the public at large, is simply obscurity. Even well-known SF authors are only read by a small percentage of the potential SF audience. Most readers, even ones who have heard of the author, simply pass them up.
Why? In most cases, simply because they don’t really know anything about the writer and aren’t willing to spend $7 to $28 just to experiment. So, they keep buying those authors they are familiar with.
What the Free Library provides-as do traditional libraries, or simply the old familiar phenomenon of friends lending each other books-is a way for people to investigate a new author for free, before they plunk down any money.
And by making their wares freely available, artists can get around a closed distribution channel. I went to buy the new Michelle Shocked album tonight. My HMV store first said it hadn’t shipped (once they acknowledged that there was such an artist as Michelle Shocked), then acknowledged that oh, it had shipped but they didn’t have it and probably wouldn’t get it. Hello, Amazon?