Is is all really free?
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- Downloading - 02 Jul 2013
Did you by any chance come here for a free ebook? Why not download all of them? You are allowed. Here is how and why.
Sharing is normal and free
Do you remember being a kid? I appreciate for some of you that’s not too hard as you still are one but when you are at school things get shared: you get a packet of sweets and, unless you’re very sneaky, you share them. You read a really good comic and you share it with your friends, you make up simply the best make-believe game ever and you share it with your friends. Life is good when we are sharing and sharing is not about paying up front. Life works better when we are not selfishly grabbing all we can and trying to make sure we have more than the next kid. Life works better when we share and, usually, sharing is contagious and come with few if any strings attached. I share my snack with you and you are more inclined to share your snack with me or the next kid and then they are more inclined to share with the next kid and so on. If I charge you for a sweet, two things happen: one you are less likely to take the offer and two you are less likely to reciprocate.
Oh having more than the next kid can seem good but having mates that we share stuff with is way better. Remember when your Mum or Dad told you to share? Why would they do that? Why would they insist that sharing nicely is a good thing to do? Because it is a good thing to do and that applies equally to the grown up stuff as it does to a packet of chocolate buttons.
I believe sharing is good, for us and for society. One of the things that has bugged me recently is how we have all this fantastic opportunity, technology and content and we let people lock it away. I remember watching and reading sci-fi when I was young and there was an optimism about it. Life was going to be better (mostly) and technology was going to make it easier. Apart from the odd alien invasion or mutant virus outbreak people used to smile more in the future when I was a child (well apart from Judge Dredd but then he never smiles). But we’ve lost that somewhere. In our rush to keep everything for ourselves and make money out of it we’ve lost the ability to make each other smile like we should.
I’m not claiming these books are the best and maybe that’s part of the reason I’m not expecting huge sales figures but that’s I also want people to share these stories, to make up their own stories and share those, to create stuff and let other create stuff and to share it with each other.
I am a firm believer in freedom. I like the idea that stories should have freedom attached. They always used to. Take any popular nursery rhyme and you’ll probably find two or three versions of it. That’s because as it got handed around (because it could be) it got adapted, amended, improved and changed. The end result is that we now have a rich and diverse set of nursery rhymes and other stories which we can share.
So these stories have freedom attached. They not only allow but encourage you to take them, share them and build on them. Not because they are anything fantastic but because we are. Between us, if we learn to share properly we might find life is a little better. I hope so anyway and I am going to do my bit by sharing these stories. I invite you to join me.
What do I mean by “free”
I’ve mentioned freedom above, and talked about sharing freely. So when I say these books are “free” what do I mean: freedom to share them or free of charge?
Actually it’s both but the former is more important. I do not charge you to download the ebooks and stories here - that includes e-versions of the novels I sell as well.. You can read, download and share any of the stories you see on this website without paying a penny.
Just to avoid any doubt, you are not allowed to photocopy the paperbacks. Those are covered by more standard copyright but, honestly, why would you want to? You can download the entire text here for free anyway.
But you use Amazon?
I do and I use iTunes and Kobi and other distributors as well. In order to make my stories as accessible to as many people as possible, I make them available on platforms like Kindle and iTunes. I also make paperbacks available via Amazon [note]. Producing a paperback and making an ebook available via iTunes costs me money so I ask you to pay me for that. I don’t charge only what I am charged because what I am charged varies and what I can charge is pretty much fixed (until I change it which takes time). So there is often a little bit extra I chare you compared to what I am charged. Honestly I sell enough paperbacks in a year to earn enough to buy myself lunch for three days so I am not in this for the money.
If you want to read my stories on your iPad or Kindle and don’t want to use their delivery systems, you can do so but it is complex and tiresome. So, to make the stories available and accessible to as many as possible without force you to jump through extra hoops, I have put them on iTunes, Kindle and Amazon. If you like that, buy them there. If not, download them here (but I cannot offer support for getting ebooks onto your devices).
What about your paperbacks being on Amazon and not independent booksellers?
I’d love to have this sold in independent booksellers. The truth is that to do so costs me a lot more than I can invest in what is essentially a hobby (I take the writing seriously but not the “selling”). I use Amazon as a print on demand service which is cost-efficient but I do not say that only Amazon can sell my books. I just can’t afford to have boxes of them in my house in case independent bookshops want to stock them. I don’t have a publisher to do that stuff for me. That’s not a complaint, just a reality. I can’t and importantly won’t spend time marketing myself and my stories. As important as stories are, mine are relatively small fry. There is also an entire argument around royalties and artists not being paid by publishers etc. I’m not getting into that but suffice to say I have had to make a compromise in using Amazon as a PoD service. I am not going any further down that path though.
A note about platform choice
Some people question me making my stuff available on Amazon and iTunes (particularly the former). They, rightly feel, I should not be perpetuating the idea that we should get everything from one or two large online sources. My decision to make my stuff available on Amazon, iTunes and other platforms is simply that that is where the readers are BUT those are not the only places you can get my stuff and I will not ever sign an exclusivity deal with one publisher or seller. You can buy a paperback via Amazon, you can buy and read my ebooks on your Apple device. You can, and always will be able to, get the same stories on this website for free (both meanings of the word).
The license I use means that if someone else wants to turn my stories into a paperback and sell them, they can BUT they must do so under the same terms of freedom as they got the stories from me. That means - I am acknowledged as the author and they have to allow people the same freedom I gave them. If someone wants to print copies of my books and slap a “you must not copy this” boilerplate on the front - they need to ask me first. If someone wants to print a copy and on the front they say “you can get a free copy of the text of this from Crimperbooks” then I’ll probably have no issue. By the way, Amazon are not making my paperbacks available - I am and I am making sure you have free access to them outside of Amazon as well. So I am sticking to my own rules here.
Should we be perpetuating the idea that we can only get stories from one or two sources? No, and I don’t believe I am.
How do I make any money?
A question that often comes up when I tell people that my books are available under Creative Commons is “how can you get paid if you give your work away?” It’s interesting and very relevant but not very easy to answer. Here’s some of my reasoning behind my choice.
I believe in freedom
Go read above about sharing as a kid and how it came without restrictions and you’ll see what I mean. Freedom is important to me and so I figure I should practice what I preach.
It’s not easy to get paid anyway
First getting any kind of income for writing is hard - really hard. A traditional publishing model - whether self-published or otherwise - is primarily focussed on selling books. A publishing contract , in essence, is you saying you will write a good book and the publisher saying they will edit it, supply it to booksellers and promote it for you. A self-published book under standard practice is focussed on sales. Read any self-publishing tips and they will speak about turning readers into sales and here lies the difficult part. Writing a decent book is hard but compared with convincing strangers to hand over their cash it’s a doddle.
But walk around a supermarket or browse an online store and you’ll see “buy one get one free” or “try before you buy” offers galore. People who sell stuff know that “free” is a powerful word and self-published authors know it too. Various articles around the web explain, very well, how the key to getting readers is to make advocates. Giving your stuff away for free is a good way to do that. Creative commons extends this paradigm further by saying you can not only get a copy for free, you can copy it and give copies to your mates. Suddenly you’ve made your advocate’s role easier. Instead of telling their friends to download a copy themselves, they hand it to them on a USB key or eMail it to them. Of course your job is still to build the advocates but it’s a lot easier to convince them to try it if it doesn’t cost them anything. A while ago I went to a Science fiction convention where one of the exhibitors had a bookcase full of old books they were giving away. I picked up an anthology of short stories which turned out to be excellent. I would not have found it had there been a price tag.
Not all readers convert into sales
Here’s an important lesson - not every reader is a sale. This is the same with restrictive copyright licensing. For every purchase of my books you can presume there will a lot of readers who don’t buy a copy. How often have you lent a good book to someone? How often to more than one person? I have books I have lent to probably 15 people, to my knowledge none have gone on to buy a copy. Yes the proportion of sales to readers is lower for traditional licensing but my experience tells me that those who get a free, unencumbered copy of an ebook are more likely to go on to buy a copy later. I have more than a few paperbacks that I purchased after first reading a freedom-licensed ebook. I have virtually none where I borrowed a copy from a friend first. Books released with freedom will convert to sales, it takes a lot longer but it happens. Some authors make a living from their books and yet give them away under Creative Commons. It may not make you a JK Rowling (and there might be many reasons why you wouldn’t want to be) but it might make you a Cory Doctorow.
So how am I making money off this?
In truth, I’m not. The focus of this project was never to make me rich. It started as a way to encourage my children in their creativity and to encourage others in storytelling and sharing of stories. I have sold copies (thanks if that was you) and as far as I can tell those have come from either somebody reading the ebook and buying a hardcopy or somebody else recommending the book to a friend. I’ve not spent any money on marketing. That’s not because I don’t want people to read my stuff but because readers are more important than customers to me. Sound very idealistic but it’s true. Over the past years I know that my stories have been downloaded from here a lot of times. I measured for a short while and it looked like I was getting about 1000 downloads a month. Based on that I guess it is over 100,000 downloads. If 3/4 of those equate to one reader that’s 75,000 readers. Now I don’t imagine each of those kept it to themselves. So if one third of them shared it with someone, that’s another 25,000 readers and I think I am being very conservative. There is no way I could convert even 10% of those into sales on my own and I don’t want to. Readers are not customers. Customers are customers and readers are readers. By the way that’s also why you won’t see my books on Kindle Unlimited. I’m grateful for the number of readers and it is more than I was expecting when I started with a small, obscure novel tucked away in a dusty corner of the web.
You can tip me if you want
After saying all this about “free”, it might seem weird for me to add a bit at the bottom asking for money. I am not asking for money. However, over the years some people have wanted to send me some small token as a thank you. If that includes you, please feel free to send me a small tip