Thursday, October 04, 2007

The download option? What do you think?

The newspaper announced that the band Radiohead has decided to circumvent the traditional music sales of CD's for a direct download of their latest artistic creation--and with the option of the buyer deciding how much they want to pay for it. Its sent shivers through the music industry which has until recently been the "driver" of the music business and been able to manage profits by controlling both the artist and the consumer's options. But that system began to break apart with the arrival of Napster and others that enabled free downloading of music. While free downloading has been frown upon, Radiohead's decision is bold for sure because the artists maintain ownership of their creativity instead of selling it to the music industry. Some say this is only possible because Radiohead is already a hugely popular and well known band. If they were an unknown, no one would care.

But I'm not sure that's true. For an unknown band to offer their music on the Web, through a direct download vs. the CD which requires production, distribution and other costs, it would seem to me that it would enable many of these bands to get heard, be purchased--even if its for as little as say two dollars--still make money while enabling the consumer to purchase their creativity at reasonable prices. The difference between a two dollar download and a $16.00 CD is significant. But best of all--it allows the artist to continue to own his/her creation and deal directly with their customers.

And it got me to thinking about books--which are very similar to the music business. Most people don't realize that the average book--despite high costs to the consumer--provide very little money to the writer. The way most book deals are structured (unless you're a huge name like Colin Powell or Paris Hilton) results in most authors receiving about one dollar for every book sold. Yes, that's dollar. The rest goes to the publisher/printer and the writer is powerless to do anything about this if they want their book printed. Even when self-published, the production costs for a book and then the subsequent distribution means that most of the money ends up in the hands of others.

And for me, the environmental costs of book production and distribution have always been a difficult challenge. On the one hand, I like people reading my book, Life Puzzle...putting the pieces together. On the other hand, getting it to you means printing it, then packing it and shipping it around the country. Between the gas needed for trucks and planes to move it around, huge amounts of paper production and cover costs, as well as the packing materials of padded envelopes and/or boxes, its a huge drain the environment. And so for quite sometime I've thought of circumventing this altogether and making my book available through a eBook/pdf file download, dropping the price from $20.00 per copy to $5.00 per copy and then letting you decide if you want to print it yourself or just read it on your computer screen (or a combination of both--read some on the computer, print for instance the recipes so you could put them in a 'recipe' collection you keep in the kitchen).

So what do you think? Should I continue to print/sell it in the traditional format, or offer it through an eBook option at a modest price. Please let me know by adding a comment here at the blog!

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