Cory Doctorow, sci-fi author and co-editor of Boing Boing, online destination for all things weird and wonderful online, is a pioneer in many ways.
On December 1, Forbes.com published "Giving it Away," Doctorow's account of the counter-intutitive way he markets his books: he offers them as free downloads while at the same time they are published as hardcover books. Not only does he not mind giving them away, he's convinced he gains much more, in particular a loyal audience, many of whom do buy his books.
There are marketing lessons here for newspapers clinging to traditional audiences and desperately seeking ways to lure new ones, as I point out in a centerpiece column inspired by Doctorow's piece and posted tonight on Poynter Online.
Doctorow's philosophy also suggests different options for publishers and writers. In addition to Doctorow's experience with his publisher, I focused on my experience as the co-author of a novel that appeared first in serialized form online and then as a hardcover book, and a new one newspapers around the country have purchased to provide their readers for free.
To me, the central question is whether books offered as online freebies can translate into sustainable revenues that can support writers, newspapers and publishers?
After chewing over these thoughts all day in my head and on the screen,I hope you'll read the column and offer your feedback from your perspective/s as reader, writer, editor, publisher.