Well, I couldn’t really stay out of the debate, although I’ve already blogged at length about the value of giving writing away for free. The release of Chris Anderson’s “Free” and resultant hoo-ha (http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6670080.html?desc=topstory) is too much of a happening for me not to write again. I’ve already posted a few thoughts on
I’ll keep this brief as a result. The last thing I want is “Dan going on about free stuff” fatigue. I’ll also try and keep it opinionated because facts seem to be out of fashion in this debate. Personally, I just don’t understand the objection as a business model to so-called “freemium” promotion – offering a basic version of your product for free, and charging for a premium version. Music practitioners have used the model so successfully I’m not sure I can see the negative argument.
Which suggests to me the argument is ideological. People who are excited about the freemium model are, by and large, people who have day jobs and want the chance to give them up and be paid for doing what they love. People who object tend to be those who are already paid to write. I understand that people don’t want to lose their livelihoods. Of course they don’t, and of course none of us wants them to. But protectionism isn’t the answer.
Literature is a breeding ground of innovation, and should remain so. And the public should have access to as wide a range of culture as there is out there. I believe they should be able to access it for free, and decide, from a position of knowledge not ignorance, which of it they want to spend their money on.
The argument that this will pollute the cultural world with rubbish is just nonsense. If what’s offered for free outside the establishment is junk, the public will discard it, and no one in the mainstream will lose their paycheck. If some of it DOES turn out to be better, then why shouldn’t some on the “inside” take a pay cut so that some on the outside can have a slice of the pie?
My call to action is simple. Make your work available to the public for free download. Let readers decide what they want to pay for. It’s not the end of the world. It’s the beginning of an aspiration to take culture seriously. That’s why I started Free-e-day (www.freeeday.wordpress.com) as a platform to bring together givers and takers of free cultural content. I also see it across the web in great initiatives like www.jet-pack.net
Free isn’t a four-letter word. Free is good. For the producers of culture. For the consumers of culture. For culture itself. Come and embrace freevolution