02 March 2008

Giving stuff away

Neil Gaiman explains why putting books online for free is a good thing:
I'm currently talking to Harpers about ways we can make the American Gods online reading experience a more pleasant one. And about ways to give American Gods away that would make Harper Collins happy while also making, say, Cory Doctorow happy too.

I was surprised by a few emails coming in from people accusing me of doing bad things for other authors by giving anything away -- the idea being, I think, that by handing out a bestselling book for nothing I'm devaluing what a book is and so forth, which I think is silly.

I like giving stuff away. I think it's sensible. [...]

During one of the interviews recently, a reporter said something like, "Of course, a real publisher wouldn't give away paper books," and I pointed out that 3,000 copies of The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy were given away by Douglas Adams' publisher, with a 'write in and get your free book' ad in Rolling Stone. They wanted copies of HHGTTG on campuses in the US, and they wanted people to read it and tell other people. Word of mouth is still the best tool for selling books.
As he points out in an interview with the Guardian,
"It's much more about gaining an audience than about some one-to-one correlation," he said. "It's a question of how do you find new writers." People often come to new authors in a library, on a friend's bookshelves, or by a personal recommendation, he explained. It "doesn't always begin with a financial transaction. I very much doubt that I discovered a single one of my favourite authors by buying a book." [...]

"The problem is not people who read books for nothing," he said, "it's people not reading books at all. You're fighting the fact that people don't read recreationally [any more]. Anything that can help has got to be a good thing."
I also agree with Bud about the ease of reading PDFs and think that if more books would become available this way, I wouldn't really need an eReader. I'm currently on page 92 of American Gods and it's occurred to me that a lot of people are probably unaware of how much reading online they already do. I've probably read what amounts to thousand-page volumes in blog posts in the past year alone...

1 comment:

TheElementary said...

I'm with you on this one. Giving things away is one of the best ways to share work. I know for a fact that if I get a free copy of a book I truly love, I'll buy copies for everyone I know that might like it. That's how it works. I couldn't see it doing any harm. You have to crack a few eggs, as they say, to make an omelet.