Note: This post was originally conceived of as a forum topic here.
Exhibit A: I believe that creative/intellectual endeavors frequently bring value into the world, even when they are digital objects.
Exhibit B: I have decided the best thing (for me) to do with my novel is to give it away.
Providing my novel for free meets a variety of my goals (I am not convinced that it alone maximizes my readership, but that’s a topic for another day).
But doing so puts me in a precarious position vis a vis exhibit A.
In theory, some readers will hopefully enjoy the book and think that it was of value to them. It will be value they did not pay for, which could contribute to the general devaluing of electronic entertainment.
Once people are used to getting something for free, it loses value. Similar to the race to the bottom (read 99 cents) in the iTunes store, where many people no longer even consider purchasing a 5-dollar game, I wonder and worry if giving away my book does not help train people to think they should be able to get e-books for free.
I finesse the problem slightly by mentioning gift economy a few times, encouraging people to share the book with friends and so on. But even that has problems, because it can lead a fan to assume that I am simply operating within a successful business model that they simply do not understand.
That model does not exist. For me at least.
That’s ok for me (except inasmuch as it means people don’t bother to try the book because of perceived value problems) but I wonder if it wouldn’t have been the moral thing to do to charge something as show of solidarity to my fellow authors.
All of this is probably taking the impact of a single book by an unknown author too seriously, but the larger question seems worth considering.