Neal’s looking into the future of publishing and asking some important questions. We all know that we can get more and more information on the Internet. That it’s a vital source of research and information. Neal contends that if writers make their books available for free online, then we’ll reach more people and authors will sell more books.
And he challenges emerging church authors (namely McLaren, Pagitt, and Jones) to begin to make their books available for free. It makes sense, right? I mean, the emerging church’s on the cutting edge of technology. They’re reaching the wired faithful. So, why not?
We’ve seen some great experiments to this effect. He points out the Art Rock Band Radiohead who sold an album online for a pay-what-you-can price and science fiction author Neil Gaiman who’s making a book available for free.
I wrote a little dissertation on the comment sections of each post. The responses have been interesting. I’ve seen a couple of people call Neal naive, which is unfortunate, because Neal’s thinking about the future of ideas, and how to be creative and faithful in the midst of it. There’s obviously a shift occurring in publishing. And we need to be wrestling with these things.
There’s discussion about whether it’s the author or the publishers’ “fault” that this is not happening. In the spirit of wrestling, I figured I’d pick the thread up. As an author, I’m not so savvy, I guess. I got my first contract and went out to dinner to celebrate. Then, I sent it to three or four other authors to make sure that it was standard. It was, so I signed. And went out to dinner again.
It’s really hard to get a book contract. I can’t imagine having one in-hand and saying, “Oh, and by the way, I’d like to make this a free online book.” Neil Gaiman might. Rick Warren might. But until Tribal Church becomes a major motion picture (tee hee), I’m pretty happy to get the contract.
Another thing I wonder… is Neal’s conclusion correct? If something’s available for free online, would people buy it? Gaiman sold a whole lot of books before he or his publisher decided to put one online for free. I know I read the NYT everyday. I’ve never bought it. I can say this about hundreds of things. Generally, if it’s free online, I’m greedy enough that I won’t shell out the money.
And, since I’m in the confessional booth already…. I must say… Tony Jones is in this conversation… I’ve never met him. But I know that the guy’s got (what?) three or four kids? So, his wife probably can’t work outside of the home. He’s coordinating Emergent Village, and I’m sure he’s not making much doing that. We know he’s not getting any pension. Does he get medical? He’s finishing his dissertation, and he’s promoting his upcoming book. He’s not a monk, like Shane Claibourne, living in a community. He’s working hard and he’s got people dependent on him. I don’t mean to get into the personal finances of someone I don’t know. I’m just saying… he probably needs to make as much as he can on his books.
And you know what? Even realizing this, I shamefully confess that I read every page of Emergent Manifesto that was available on Googlebooks. I never bought it. And I have a book allowance.
So, dear readers, where do you think all of this is going? Do you agree with Mr. Locke? Would you say that having a book online for free will generate sales or take away from them? Do we have a wired generation (of which I’m a proud part) who’s too used to getting their music, news, and information for free?