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Howard Hendrix on Giving Away Books for Free

Will Shetterly has posted a rant from Howard V. Hendrix, SFWA’s current V.P. and author of Spears of God:

I’m also opposed to the increasing presence in our organization of webscabs, who post their creations on the net for free. A scab is someone who works for less than union wages or on non-union terms; more broadly, a scab is someone who feathers his own nest and advances his own career by undercutting the efforts of his fellow workers to gain better pay and working conditions for all. Webscabs claim they’re just posting their books for free in an attempt to market and publicize them, but to my mind they’re undercutting those of us who aren’t giving it away for free and are trying to get publishers to pay a better wage for our hard work.

John Scalzi has a brief response to the rant. Nick Mamatas has one more fun for observers.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

9 Comments on Howard Hendrix on Giving Away Books for Free

  1. I actually posted a much longer and more annoyed response here:

  2. I stand corrected! (Which is good because these orthopedic shoes are murder on my spine…)

  3. My Elves Are Different is quick to respond, too!

  4. Fred Kiesche // April 14, 2007 at 6:26 am //

    Now, I guess that this rant could also be directed at a publisher, e.g., Baen. I wonder how he explains away the fact that giving various books away for free, either in the Webscriptions Free Library or in the various CD-ROM’s in some of the books has actually increased the sales of the dead-tree editions of those books.

    Or the fact that Baen pays a professional rate for submissions to “Jim Baen’s Universe” to first-time authors?

    I think the man needs to take a pill.


  5. Fred Kiesche // April 14, 2007 at 6:29 am //

    I sure hope that Mr. Scalzi wins his bid for president at the SFWA. Maybe he can drag them into the current century. This sounds like the usual anti-technology ranting they’ve been making against eBooks, etc. Sometimes they are just one tiny step away from the RIAA/MPAA.

  6. I’ve chewed over Hendrix’s post for a day now, and I’m starting to think the man totally gets online marketing after all. I’d never heard of him until he posted this. Now I just might hunt down one of his books to see what his deal is.

    Of course, I’m going to go to a library, one of those places that hands out books for free, but what the hell.

  7. He DOES make a valid point. It was pretty and unique when Baen did it, but it gets excessive when there’s dozens and dozens of authors just releasing their books on the internet.

    On the other hand…it does work, in that I never finish reading them. not even the Baen ones. I read a chapter or two, and if I’m still interested then I go out and buy the book. I have no desire to read a whole book on a computer screen. My eyes will fall out of my head before I’m done.

    I think we’re very quietly coming up on the point when the internet is juuuuust about to change a lot of things in publishing, some of them for the better, some for the worst. I don’t think we’ve identified all of the things about to change. I think this is one of them.

  8. This is from a recent interview with Peter Watts…

    As a way to publicize the book, Watts recently released the novel online under a Creative Commons license, which means it’s available to read for free on his Web site, he said. “Someone snuck me a few figures from Bookscan, and those suggest that sales of Blindsight nearly tripled the week after I set it free,” Watts said. “All of a sudden I’m getting fan mail from Brazil and Colombia; Blindsight’s getting blogged in Portugal and Russia. … [I’ve even had some readers] demand that I set up a PayPal account, because they want to send me money.”

    Says it all really. What author wouldn’t want to do this?

  9. It is hard for me to figure out how Dr. Hendrix could cram more bad ideas on economics, markets, technology, individual liberty and intellectual property rights in such a small space.

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