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Are you an Artist or Author? Give us a tip jar.

I bought an e-book yesterday. I don't have a microsoft reader compatible device, but I bought it in reader format.

I paid $17 dollars to Neal Stephenson, because I generally like his books. I paid, finished checkout, then spent the next 45 minutes or so installing microsoft reader, so I could download the file, and rip the drm off of it in order to get it to plain html (to read on the iphone). I did all this because I felt I should pay Neal for his work, but I didn't want a dead tree copy of it.

Had I not had this fuzzy motivation, I could have gone to IRC and had a drm free copy at no cost in probably.. 30 seconds, but Neal wouldn't have seen a dime.

So, here's the problem you face as artists. You no longer control the distribution of your work. It's got legs baby. If you charge too much, people will steal it. If you don't distribute it in a format people can use, people will convert it for you to the platform of their choice (after stealing it).

I know it seems like it sucks, but I truly believe you'll do alright! The business now is about fairness and an actual relationship with your audience. If we like your work and want to see more of it we'll support you. It's direct patronage.

Why you need a tip jar

At this point very few people are doing digital distribution that is palatable. I know that sometimes with agents and publishers and lawyers in the mix that all gets muddied. The thing to remember is that none of those people can control your audience or the distribution method any more. We choose it. Sorry, but we're in control again, it's the nature of the net.

So go with the flow. Put up a simple app on your website that says: "like what I do? leave me a tip!" and take donations. Outwardly, you don't need to be any clearer than that. Inwardly, count every cent of that money as a vote against closed formats and DRM. (by buying the microsoft reader format, I in effect voted FOR DRM.. which I'd prefer to avoid.)

Your publisher, rather predictably will then say something like "Your tips are taking money from us!". Tell them that in fact, they're not. People that want a printed book will still buy a printed book. People that want to put up with their ham handed attempts at ebook publishing with draconian DRM, will still put up with it. The ones that wouldn't have, were never their customers. We're yours, artist.. and we're damned loyal to you, if you let us be. ; )

Comments

Why didn't you just buy the .lit file and then IRC the book in an iPod-friendly format?

because I'm a glutton for punishment. I'm going to do that next time of course. In the past it was easier, because I had a ripping rig set up on my old laptop. This time I had to re-create one because I'm carrying around a mac day to day.. ; )

the problem still stands though, by purchasing .lit at all, I'm financially voting for DRM.