Lynne d Johnson



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06.13.08 12:31 AM

Publishing Takes A Page From Radiohead, NIN, and Saul Williams

pirate-dilemma-download.gif We've talked about these things before. Radiohead's digital download distribution experiment. Saul Williams follow up to the experiment. Trent Reznor's take on the Saul Williams experiment.

We've even talked about the future of print and even, piracy and the future of the music biz. So when I was over at Chris Brogan's site today, and read that my boy Matt Mason, author of The Pirate's Dilemma: How Youth Culture Reinvented Capitalism was giving away free digital downloads of the book, I wasn't that surprised. Happy. But not surprised.

The model, much like Radiohead's, leaves the price of the download entirely up to the consumer. The only thing Mason asks for is your email contact info. And he promises not to spam you. And Matt taps into something in they why he's doing this that I tried to present in my "Is Print Dead?" unkeynote back in portland a few weeks ago. Yes, it's been a common trend that perhaps only 20% of the books released each year end up being hits. Mason brings the present-day numbers down even lower when he reports that "The average American is reading just one book a year." But there's of course the long tail that comes into play here, especially with books -- books always have longer shelf life than music. In that I mean, the Times Bestseller list doesn't work in quite the same way as the Billboard charts. Furthermore, books that were hot 20 years ago, are often still hot today. Not always so true with music.

Of course, the electronic book, in and of itself isn't new. But the way Mason has chosen to distribute it is. He's taken the power of the piracy into his on hands. He's offering you a freemium, and if you like his product, he can upsell you at any time by offering you premium content related to the book. Perhaps you'll pay for the audiobook. Or behind-the-scenes info about the making of the book. Whatever his overall business model is here, I'm sure the e-copy is more than just a marketing tool as a hook into selling more books. One thing that's for sure, the next time he writes a book, you're going to remember him and you'll be more likely to purchase his content.

There's an interview with him over at that you might want to check out: Steal This Idea, in which Mason discusses why and how pirating can be a good thing.

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