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Sunday, 3 February 2013

A Radical Price

Recently I read Free, by Wired's Chris Anderson; appropriately enough I borrowed it (from my boss, who passed it over with a deprecatory sniff and said, "A lot of it's bollocks."), so I've managed to check it out at the price Mr Anderson intended. As far as what I thought, maybe I was prejudiced by my boss' succinct review, but I didn't think it was bollocks - as with most books on economics that I've read (eg Freakonomics), the point isn't whether or not you agree, but to look at a problem from a new angle.

Of course, it does help that I'm slowly coming to agree with Chris Anderson's point in the book.

I first heard of Chris Anderson, and Free (as well as his previous book, The Long Tail), on the Nerdist podcast, which is clearly becoming my main link to the outside world. Anderson's point in Free has been echoed repeatedly by Chris Hardwick and many of his guests (including Scott Sigler), and it seems to be working for them.

(Which makes sense; they wouldn't be arguing for a distribution model that didn't work for them, would they?)

The main idea that I've taken from Free is the statement that "Abundance creates new scarcities", and I've been trying to see how I can apply it to my own writing/creative efforts. The problem is, I'm part of the abundance (ie, people who want to be writers), and so I'm subject to the scarcity of editors' and literary agents' time and attention. I've tried to address this by self-publishing stories on Kindle and iBooks (though apparently Amazon doesn't let you set books as free unless you get an ISBN, which sounds like a pain in the ass), and by saying witty (or, if you prefer, half-witty) things on Twitter.

Also, while I accept the idea that the way to get money for doing something creative is to go ahead and do it, I have to admit to a slightly old-fashioned worry in one respect: I'm concerned by the mindset, attributed to young folks these days, that everything should be free. If that's the case, then what hope is there for people like me who are trying to break into the business? I do genuinely believe that piracy hurts creative people and can act as a barrier to creating content (sorry to be so clinical about it, but I do subscribe to the old quip by Samuel Johnson, that no man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money).

I'm probably over-thinking this (it's what I do), and in any case, both Chris Anderson and Scott Sigler have answers. For the former, it's a question of waiting for illegal downloaders to get to a point in their lives where they're willing to pay for content; more reassuringly Scott Sigler's suggestion is that you should be doing it anyway, because you don't know how it will turn out.

Which means, I guess, that I should be putting content out there rather than sitting here and whining about it on this blog.