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Finding an Audience: First, Trust Them

O'Reilly Radar > Buying the Cow, Though the Milk is Free.  Tim O’Reilly links to an interesting article on The Book Standard about the success of authors and publishers that publish on-line versions.  Some authors even use Creative Commons licenses to allow non-commercial derivatives, a move that some see as increasing the engagement of author and audience in ways that deepen the relationship.  The experience of the cases discussed is that print sales are not impacted and may increase as the result of the wider publicity that the works enjoy, despite the degree of piracy that all forms of publishing experience.

It is also clear that these publishers and authors distinguish between trading and sharing, even electronically, and the kind of piracy involving wholesale misappropriation and commerce in the pirated work.  Author Charlie Stross observes that having a free e-book can discourage piracy by making it unprofitable.

O’Reilly commends the article and also points to his 2002-12-11 essay, Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution.  Here Tim articulates seven lessons that he finds in having online copies of publications.  Lesson 1 is enough to command my attention through the rest of it:

Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.

I just re-read it, this time browsing through the lengthy comments, which O’Reilly made into a lively running discussion with his participation.  It is fascinating to compare Tim’s observations, then, with the situation today with successful subscription services (with some degree of DRM) and with more authors and artists making their works available under Creative Commons licenses.  Based on this movement, the way the Supreme Court and then the Congress decide the matter of MGM vs. Grokster might make little difference in the movement to online availability, and sharing, of creative works.

Tim’s article is inspiring, bringing to mind at one instant a number of observations:

  • First, it reminds me of the contrast between people/organizations that cling to 100% of nothing rather than enjoy 10% of something really big.
  • More than that, I see how much that trust is required to chance speculative lost sales in exchange for building of an audience. Sometimes I think the fearfulness of the entertainment and publishing media is a reflection of how fearful of exploitation (and danger) we have all become.  (That’s without looking at the Zen of the entertainment media seeing thieves everywhere.)
  • Bruce Schneier illustrates our state of fear in a recent note about the 11-year old Scout who was lost in the woods for 4 days and saw people but avoided contact with them because they were strangers.  We are training ourselves to be afraid and distrustful.

Along with Tim’s observations, I also find the Robert Solomon and Fernando Flores Building Trust in Business, Politics, Relationships, and Life a welcome find for its attention to the notion of Authentic Trust (reviewed here and here).  It’s time I stopped my random page-turnings and read this compact little book straight through.

Last night I attended an Ottmar Liebert concert at a wonderful parkland venue.  I purchased the autographed (415/2000) boxed-set of his latest album, La Semana, and also the solo album, Transit, by the Luna Negra bassist, Jon Gagan.  I noticed this great announcement on the back cover of Transit:

Do the right thing!
If for any reason you need to make a copy of this CD,
we ask that you contribute $5 to the artist at


In fact, you can donate for any of the publisher’s music and they’ll send you a link to the PDF for the cover that you can print for yourself.

At the intermission, Liebert announced that in July the latest work would be available for download, with a Creative Commons license that would permit remixing, non-commercial podcasting, and other usage.  He didn’t say anything more specific than that, although there are hints at his publishing site (and his blog is a CC share-alike 2.0), but I do think this all had something to do with my first public wearing of my Commoner 2005 T-Shirt [;<). 

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