Love it or hate it, let’s face it. We all love FREE stuffs don’t we?
In this Information Age, data can be transmit seamlessly without any barriers, wired or wireless, conveniently receiving it from one computer to another. Or probably, converting it from one medium to another too. With that in mind, E-books should be free, is it not? Since information can be copied and reproduced with just 4 keys: Crt + C and Crt + V, there should be no cost incurred, no? And with zero cost incurred, it is only logical that E-books should be free.
But this is not the case. We can copy a Word document or a PDF file multiplying it into as many copies as we want without additional resources. But E-books are not free, not because of the capabilities of our technology, but publishers, distributors and authors structured it to be so.
Time and effort
Let’s say you were to be an author and you got this amazing fantasy story, even better than Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. You spent months and years to finsh it, and finally done with the final draft. With the manuscript, you publish it electronically (assuming so just for the sake of illustration.)
Subsequently, sales volume is bad, yet everyone has read it, which they got it for free from some sites, or from their friends. How would you, as an author and the creator for that content, feel about this when your livelihood depends on the sales of your titles?
Digital Rights Management
Thus, to ensure the survivability of authors, the business model of printed books is forced upon E-books. By creating Digital Rights Management (DRM), it is then imbued into the electronic materials, preventing unauthorized redistribution of digital media and restrict the ways consumers can copy content they have purchased. It is only by this way that authors and creators can somewhat gain monetarily through the sales of E-books. This explains why E-books will never be free, at least not in our era.
The only way for E-books to be free is to abandon the pricing model, adopted from the printed books, that is imposed on E-books, . That is to say, since E-books are on electronic medium which can be shared effortlessly, it should be so, without the issue of DRM. Without DRM ‘problems’ for the non IT savvy and other legal issues, e-books will be free legally.
If so, how can authors still be paid for their hard work?
They can still be paid through other avenues, such as marketing of related products, sponsorship and etc. When readers are into a particular trend, many possible consumer products can be created and conjured up to address this need and demand. In fact, this will be a better model and may contribute to a bigger portion of revenue.
By giving up the revenue driven from the book sales, more publicity will be gained. It is a test of survival of the fittest as more readers have access to the content, resulting in a larger sampling size. In lay man’s term, the popularity or ranking of best selling titles are driven by viral marketing, not sales volume, which can be manipulated to a certain extent.
However, please note that I am only referring to ebooks sales only. I’m sure it will be the same business model for printed books.
Revenue Collection Method
Long story short, for e-books to be free legally, the entire e-book business should be revamped. Starting from the content creators, that is the authors, their mentality has to be changed. The usual revenue collection method from sales volume for e-books should be abolished for it is not practical, and not logical at all. Why should they (distributors, publishers and etc) imposed such a traditional outdated method on the current stage of technology where information is transmitted effortlessly. It totally makes no sense at all!
In the past, copywriters are paid for their time and effort in reproducing a work. That is to say, the works are written, or typed, word for word. But since computers can do the same in 1 sec, the current pay structure for authors who create electronic content should be revamped too.
On an ending note, E-books will never be free legally, not in the near future, not in this era. Only when a new payment method for e-books can be drawn up to ensure that all authors and creators are still being paid, the old concept of selling books will continue to be forced upon on e-books.
Personally I find it easier to read the hard copy of a book. In fact, when I have E-books, notes or any electronic material, I prefer printing chapters for reading. Reading from the computer screen, or my Blackberry aggravates my eyes. However, there are many who will read only the E-book version of a book. Therefore, when you read a book, do you prefer reading the E-book or hard copy version? Will E-books ever replace their hard copy versions? What do you think? :/