Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Feature: What Publishers Can Learn from Other Genre Publications

Every Wednesday, I have an essay or feature article on any topic that catches my fancy!

For me, the present is this big transition period in the publishing industry (although like the Renaissance, the rate of advancement varies from country to country--here in the Philippines, the traditional publishing model is just as effective as it was a decade or two ago [or maybe it never really worked]) and while I bemoan policies like DRM, here's a couple of interesting policies and practices (from the perspective of the consumer/reader) I'm witnessing from some speculative fiction publishers.

1) Order the Book, Get the PDF Now (Paizo Publishing) - While not necessarily a "fiction" publication, Paizo Publishing has a great policy with its RPG products. Order any of their titles and you get a free PDF of the book. With all the arguments on books vs. eBooks, this is the best of both worlds, and also provides instant gratification while you wait for the books to arrive at your doorstep.

2) Custom Anthologies (Anthology Buider) - It's not quite the micro-transaction business model but the ability to create your own anthology is a neat feature, especially for voracious short story readers like me. What's even better is that Anthology Builder handles all of the copyright issues so all one has to do is select which stories you want to obtain. The only limitation is the actual selection of authors/stories available but hopefully that willl develop further in the future (and right now it's certainly possible to create something like a People of Color speculative fiction anthology).

3) Buy a PDF and Get 1 Free (GUD Magazine) - The problem with some eBooks is that while it's technically possible to "share" them to other people, it's usually not legal to do so. GUD Magazine has a policy that when you buy a PDF, you get an access code which you can give to a friend so they get a copy of the issue too!

4) Microtransactions (GUD Magazine) - While not advertised at the front page, it's actually possible to purchase individual poems/stories from GUD Magazine. The system for fiction microtransactions isn't perfect (preview is limited to excerpts) but it's a start.

4) Creative Commons (Small Beer Press) - What's better than points #3 and #4? Free eBooks! Small Beer Press actually has some of their titles available for download under the Creative Commons License in a variety of formats. It's the ideal model for those with the try-before-you-buy mentality.

5) Labeled e-ARCs (GUD Magazine) - More of a concern for reviewers, GUD Magazine labels each review copy they send to reviewers. On one hand, since it's uniquely labeled, it makes the reviewer feel special. On the other hand, it also makes sure that if somebody illegally distributes the magazine, they know who to blame...


steve davidson said...

good round up. while these are some excellent transitional models (and worth adopting where appropriate) they are all still in the realm of treating the property being purchased as the physical object - not the creative, ephemeral, intangible that a novel, short story, song or movie is.
Eventually we'll be purchasing the 'thing', not the map, and format will be whatever you want it to be, whenever you want it to be that.

GUD Magazine said...

I'd say some of us (and some of those above) aren't trying to treat the thing as specifically a physical object. That said, there's still value in producing a given format. You don't magically get an RTF or Kindle format item when you've produced something for print. But separating what you're paying for in terms of content and what you're paying for in terms of Thing are important, going forward, I would agree.

For our part (and Paizo Publishing's, above), If you buy the physical item, you get the PDF. Isn't that roughly what you're looking for? They do have different costs to produce, so vice versa we can offer a cheaper PDF than we can a book--but we try to keep the "content" price the same, and if you've paid the content for one form, it stands to reason that you shouldn't have to pay that part of the price again. (So, arguably, we should offer a discount to folks who bought the PDF and then want hardcopy--we haven't had anyone ask, yet... and we're kind of under-pricing the hardcopy at the moment).