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Ask Slashdot: Funding Models For a Free E-book?

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the free-is-not-free dept.

Books 128

danspalding writes "I'm an adult education teacher in SF who wrote an e-book about how to teach adults. It will be available to download for free in January 2013. I Kickstarted enough money for editing, design and publicity, but not enough to pay me anything up front. I'm considering making a $1, $10 and $25 version available from Amazon as a way for folks to donate money to me, as well as a straight up PayPal link on my site. Is it possible to produce quality material for teachers to download for free in a way that's economically sustainable? Might readers accidentally pay for a copy without realizing there's a free download and get angry? And where should I host the free-to-download version?"

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Make up your mind.... (4, Insightful)

banbeans (122547) | about 2 years ago | (#41801673)

Is it free or for profit? It can not be both.
Either release it for free for the good of mankind and be happy or make it commercial and try and make money.
If you try to make money off a free book you will be sadly disappointed.

Re:Make up your mind.... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41801689)

That's silly. Lots of things are done for free with the option to donate something to the author.

I know the nasty "profit-is-evil" streak is about to rear its ugly head here... but before it does, I'd suggest there's nothing wrong with providing a mechanism for this. Just so long as he honors the original arrangement from the Kickstarter, first and foremost.

Re:Make up your mind.... (1)

noobermin (1950642) | about 2 years ago | (#41801721)

I don't think he meant that. Asking for donations is fine, it's just the author shouldn't have been expecting to make a lot of money with it.

Re:Make up your mind.... (1)

McFadden (809368) | about 2 years ago | (#41801731)

it's just the author shouldn't have been expecting to make a lot of money with it.

Where did the author claim they were?

Re:Make up your mind.... (1)

noobermin (1950642) | about 2 years ago | (#41801747)

-.- On my thread a little down I said it would be good if the author clarified. I assumed they weren't okay with simple donations, hence the whole amazon thing... Then again, I could be wrong.

Re:Make up your mind.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41801995)

People tend not to donate after the fact for things they got for free. Offering the option to buy it in the beginning is more likely to produce results, even if it is also available for free.

Re:Make up your mind.... (1)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | about 2 years ago | (#41803321)

I imagine the Amazon thing was to get it up on Amazon, for exposure. Multiple prices since he doesn't have the ability to put a Paypal link up on Amazon.

As to people getting annoyed because they accidentally bought a free book - screw 'em. These are teachers, supposedly - if they don't have the reading comprehension to understand what's going on, they shouldn't be teaching anyway.

Re:Make up your mind.... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41802217)

"but not enough to pay me"

also the title is "funding models for a free ebook". I'm not sure if the author meant that he's an unemployed guy trying to make a buck or not, but thats how it sounds and the free being an angle - not the intention of donating his time for the cause.

Re:Make up your mind.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41802215)

Why "shouldn't" he expect to make money for his work? On the principle that people "should" give away their labors, or that it's naive to expect (selfish) people to pay for what they can get free?

Re:Make up your mind.... (2)

aicrules (819392) | about 2 years ago | (#41803119)

So he said the book would be free in his kickstarter project. He made more than the necessary amount on kickstarter and now he wants to maybe make some money off of it. I would highly recommend that, if he wants to make money, he instead set another kickstarter project (perhaps even with a similar output) coinciding with the release of the book and set a higher goal so he can feed him/his family if that is what is needed.

Re:Make up your mind.... (4, Insightful)

tehcyder (746570) | about 2 years ago | (#41802267)

That's silly. Lots of things are done for free with the option to donate something to the author.

I know the nasty "profit-is-evil" streak is about to rear its ugly head here... but before it does, I'd suggest there's nothing wrong with providing a mechanism for this. Just so long as he honors the original arrangement from the Kickstarter, first and foremost.

If he sells it for profit, he should return all the money he has received from Kickstarter, if that was raised on the basis of being funding for a free e-book that just needed to cover some up front costs.

Otherwise, it's just fraud, which does not surprise me in the least since Kickstarter is involved. Profit is not bad in itself, but you shouldn't be able to mix up charitable donations and business funding, they're two separate things.

Re:Make up your mind.... (1)

SquarePixel (1851068) | about 2 years ago | (#41802385)

Nobody was talking about Kickstarter the site. He just said he got some money to kickstart the project.

Re:Make up your mind.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803003)

No, he said that he Kickstarted it.

Punctuation matters. This is why we use it, because it conveys meaning.

Re:Make up your mind.... (2)

LihTox (754597) | about 2 years ago | (#41803085)

"I'm considering making a $1, $10 and $25 version available from Amazon as a way for folks to donate money to me"

The author's asking for donations, not charging a mandatory fee. I've seen this model with concerts at churches etc, where they'll sponsor a free concert, but with a "suggested free-will offering".

Re:Make up your mind.... (1)

metrometro (1092237) | about 2 years ago | (#41803929)

Bullshit. If you make something available for free (and open and...) and still manage to support yourself we should be celebrating that and asking how we can replicate it. Because that means creators will be able to make a lot more Free and lot less Not Free and that is a good thing.

Precisely (4, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 2 years ago | (#41801701)

Either is fine. There's nothing wrong with wanting to make money. We all need to eat, need to pay the mortgage, and all that shit. However you have to decide with various projects if they are to be free or not. Trying to mix it is never going to work out for you.

So far, Kickstarter has done its job: You got the money to do the project. That's all it really is for. If you deliver the project to your backers, you've fulfilled your obligation and they'll be happy. After that? Well that's up to you.

You can decide to make it free to the world. That's a nice thing to do for the world, but you'll get almost no money. Asking for donations generally doesn't result in much, people tend to donate their money to larger causes/organizations. Reactions from your backers will be mixed, some might be irked about having paid for something that is now free, others will like what you are doing. Either way doesn't matter, you met your obligation to them.

You can also decide you'd like money from it. The backers got their copy due to their backing, now the rest of the world needs to pony up cash if they'd also like a copy. Many KS projects do this. The Kickstarter is to get the shit up and running, then any sales after that are profit.

So figure out what you want more, and then go with it. It is all up to you. Just don't try to do both or it'll work poorly.

Re:Precisely (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803005)

Quote
There's nothing wrong with wanting to make money. We all need to eat, need to pay the mortgage, and all that shit. However you have to decide with various projects if they are to be free or not. Trying to mix it is never going to work out for you. /Quote

hehe,,,,
Why is it that for the majority of us eating and hopefully a mortgage are benefits of "profit" while corporations see such things as "the cost of doing business"
Nah, if this guy is sincere about this being to merely sustain himself, I wouldn't worry too much about the whole kickstarter portion. If he somehow cracks $30k in the sale of this free book within the first year, he should be making some charitable donations.

Re:Make up your mind.... (2)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 2 years ago | (#41801769)

Not quite.
If the price is right, I'd be willing to pay for a printed version of an otherwise free e-book.
The question here is deciding which price is "right".

Re:Make up your mind.... (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 2 years ago | (#41802677)

"If the price is right, I'd be willing to pay for a printed version of an otherwise free e-book."

I do that sometimes, export to PDF from Calibre and order a printout from Lulu.com.
Depending on how often I need to use it, I order a flimsy or a more durable hardcover book.

Black or white, off or on... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41801845)

College professors and dimming switch companies hate folks like you, but every priest is sure to love you.

Re:Make up your mind.... (3, Informative)

ath1901 (1570281) | about 2 years ago | (#41801945)

Yes, it can be both. He's giving it away for free and asking for voluntary donations. I.e. it will be free and if people donate, he will make a profit.

The last sentence also shows he is concerned about readers misunderstanding this model of free+donations and accidentally paying when they actually wanted it for free. It is a valid concern and it shows his heart is in the right place.

I'm sorry I don't have any good advice but I hope someone else does. This type of initiative is what the world needs.

Re:Make up your mind.... (3, Insightful)

smi.james.th (1706780) | about 2 years ago | (#41802109)

Maybe just make it clear on the Amazon page that there is also a free version available?

Re:Make up your mind.... (1)

rhsanborn (773855) | about 2 years ago | (#41804257)

I wouldn't put out a pay-for version on amazon. 1) Now you give amazon a cut. 2) You do run the risk of misunderstanding. Distribute the book for free, and anywhere you distribute it, include a link to a donation page. I think that's the most up-front way to distribute a truly free book.

CreateSpace (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#41804569)

You have to give someone a cut for a printed version anyway, be it Amazon CreateSpace or someone else.

Re:Make up your mind.... (3, Informative)

Yvanhoe (564877) | about 2 years ago | (#41802033)

Actually, if the kickstarter had been made factoring in a salary, it could have been both free AND for profit.

Otherwise, look into a roleplaying game that was known to be commercial but also released under creative commons : Eclipse Phase. They sell the hardcover book, they sell the PDF, but you can distribute it freely. It is not hard to find, yet they manage to make a living this way.

CC-nc may be the thing you are looking for...

Re:Make up your mind.... (2)

tehcyder (746570) | about 2 years ago | (#41802311)

Actually, if the kickstarter had been made factoring in a salary, it could have been both free AND for profit.

That is why I don't understand Kickstarter. If you want to give some random guy a few hundred quid to support him as he sits at home writing a book, I suppose that's up to you, but if there is no possible profit involved you shouldn't be allowed to treat it as a business transaction. It's just a donation to an individual who sounds ethically highly dubious.

If you want to start an educational charity, fine, but do it properly, including complying with the laws about being a registered charity.

Perhaps I am missing something, as Kickstarter seems to be loved by most people on slashdot, where all I can see is people conning money out of gullible well off geeks.

Re:Make up your mind.... (1)

slim (1652) | about 2 years ago | (#41803251)

That is why I don't understand Kickstarter. If you want to give some random guy a few hundred quid to support him as he sits at home writing a book, I suppose that's up to you, but if there is no possible profit involved you shouldn't be allowed to treat it as a business transaction. It's just a donation to an individual who sounds ethically highly dubious.

I think you're missing what Kickstarter is. As a pledger, you definitely get something in return.

Look at today's "project of the day", 36 Dollars Magazine [kickstarter.com] . Pledge $6 and you get a copy of the magazine. Pledge $36 and you get "Two copies of $36 Dollars Magazine, and a over-sized "study" format of the analysis of the production process including a reference guide, time and cost projections, and a summarized differential analysis of direct paper recycling via various means over traditional waste collection services.".

It's up to you whether you think that's a good deal or not.

If not enough people pledge, the product doesn't get made, and nobody pays anything.

The only difference between this and normal commerce, is that the producer gets a firm measure of demand, and some actual funds, before committing money to producing the goods.

Many free projects ask for donations (1)

ET3D (1169851) | about 2 years ago | (#41802415)

Donations can help to continue the development of a free project, which is why a lot of free projects ask for them. There's nothing bad in that, and occasionally if I use a free piece of software a lot I will pay its developer some money, because this kind of thing does encourage a developer to continue.

That's how I understand "economically sustainable". Dan Spalding wants to create more free books, but working on them at his own expense is not practical. Enough donations could help sustain this idea indefinitely.

Re:Make up your mind.... (2)

WolphFang (1077109) | about 2 years ago | (#41802577)

I currently make my Cherokee Language eBook evailable for free from my main website, and 2.99 for ebook for through any distribitors with no DRM option where possible. Haven't had people send me any nasty-grams. I get decent sales are on Amazon (for my very small, and lower income overall target audience).

Re:Make up your mind.... (0)

bukowski90210 (252368) | about 2 years ago | (#41802719)

Well, whether you like it or not your ebook will be dl'ed for free and at will if anyone is interested enough. If you wish to gain profit at all, don't offer your work for free...that is certainly going to happen anyways. You are bound by your medium and the free-sharing of intellectual property is inherent.

Re:Make up your mind.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803129)

Free or not free is the question, not free or for profit. It is possible to charge a fee and still operate without profit. Non-profits do it all the time, as do some for-profit businesses when they offer a low-cost item as a loss-leader.

Publishing via Amazon and Barnes & Noble print-on-demand, and via their electronic formats, is certainly an option. The only cost to the author is the time and tools required to create a quality product. Of course, the product is unlikely to sell without marketing. This can be accomplished in several ways, including hosting a website, writing a blog, giving talks, and traditional means.

Re:Make up your mind.... (2)

danspalding (560127) | about 2 years ago | (#41803517)

To be clear, the e-book will always be available for a free download. I believe in making my work available to everyone who needs it, that's what my Kickstarter backers supported, and piracy always wins anyway. The question is, how can I generate revenue while a free version exists?

"A way to donate..." (1)

noobermin (1950642) | about 2 years ago | (#41801677)

Putting items on amazon with a price as a way to "donate" doesn't sound like donating and doesn't give customers that impression. Can you buy "donations" on amazon? (I really don't know, I'm not being sarcastic)

Why don't you just sell it? $10 isn't too bad imo (depending on what it actually is) and is almost a steal... And you can still ask for donations after that...

But if you want it to be free, make it free with donations but that's the price you pay for really making it free. Trying to trick people into giving you donations (whether you believe you are doing that or not) is sure to give you a bad rep as an author. Simply making it not free will look less sketchy but will guarantee income for you.

Re:"A way to donate..." (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#41801681)

I'm guessing the Kickstarter campaign would've involved "free" as a key buzzword. Probably can't outright demand money for it after that.

Re:"A way to donate..." (1)

noobermin (1950642) | about 2 years ago | (#41801711)

It would be better if the asker could actually respond here to clarify things. In that case, s/he's probably should follow through with his/er words because again that would ruin the author's rep.

As another commenter said, the author needs to make up their mind. You can't really do both. Donations help, but you aren't in for a killing, tbh.

Re: It would be better if the asker could respond (4, Insightful)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 2 years ago | (#41801733)

I noticed some back there's a mediocre rate of these Ask Slashdot Askers actually ever coming to post in their own threads. I feel insulted posting notes to questions when they are not read by the Asker.

Re: It would be better if the asker could respond (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41802781)

That's an excellent point.

It could be explained by the fact that most people can't be on Slashdot 24/7. It seems likely that the Asker is unaware that his article is currently featured on slashdot - it doesn't make any sense to get this great free publicity and then ignore it.

Maybe the slashdot editors don't give any advanced notice of when the Ask Slashdot is going to be published. Is there a way for members or signed in users to see how long ago this article was submitted? Presumably the editors at least auto-email the submitters when their submission goes live - if not, that's a bad flaw in the system.

(after some small research) The author lives in California, where it is currently 5AM. That would certainly help explain why he isn't online. He's going to be pissed off when he wakes up and sees his article heading to the bottom of the front page, and oblivion.

Re:"A way to donate..." (1)

aurizon (122550) | about 2 years ago | (#41801953)

Will amazo cede you any right to determine the end price?
  and Amazon also wants a huge cut

Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41801705)

Make the pay-version truly "adult". Sexy teachers teaching sexy teaching methods.

clarity - my read (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41801751)

The author wants to make donationware. He wants a tiered-level donation system ranging from 'freeloader' to 'platinum donor.' What is the most user-friendly way to make this happen? Stamped: human.male.american

Release it now, as a "Beta". (4, Interesting)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 2 years ago | (#41801755)

If it's already written, then you're ready to go viral. We don't want to wait until January. That's not how the modern release cycle works anymore. Release it as a "Beta", with further editing to come later. What's this about funds for "Publicity"? You just nailed an Ask Slashdot, so here we are!

And what's the license? I would like for once to see texts released in one of the Creative Commons licenses, and not the straight "Copyright ___". You say your text is about teaching adults, right? So why not go with the pure "By" (Attribution) license, where you freely allow mashups and chopping and all that fun stuff that used to be praised as "Active Learning". If you try to lock down your exact words it sends a chill related to the basic school methodology of "I am the teacher, so be quiet and listen."

Meanwhile, precisely why are you asking where to host it? Isn't that what Web Hosts are for?

Re:Release it now, as a "Beta". (4, Insightful)

Formalin (1945560) | about 2 years ago | (#41802323)

Why not BY-SA?

That freely allows mashups and chopping, but they have to release it under the same licence.

monetize your work (1)

kid_wonder (21480) | about 2 years ago | (#41801773)

Not sure how big of a market you are talking about here, nor the material(s) involved - for example, is it a straight textbook or are there lessons, syllabi(?), etc

Create a free version and a paid version. The paid version should obviously provide some substantial improvement and/or additional features from the free version. Perhaps those lessons and/or syllabi

If this is an on-going process of improvement then at some point you could make your older versions free and charge for the newer version -- even have some sort of a step down. Say full price for v3.0, half price for v2.0 and free for v1.0

I mean, thats how software has done it for years and that seems to be sticking around so it must work, right?

Paying for Amazon DRM == bad mkay! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41801815)

My personal viewpoint would be that you should provide downloadable versions from your website in a number of open formats and allow people to donate as much or little as they wish with some suggested amount, i.e. $10.

Would I be unhappy if I bought it and then found out there was a free version. No.
Would I be unhappy if I bought a version that was DRM'd to the Kindle and then found out that there was a free version that wasn't. Yes.

If you design your website so that they have to provided their email address first, then you can email them some time later asking if they enjoyed the book and would they provide feedback and/or a donation.

A similar model certainly worked for Nine Inch Nails who are not doing it "for the good of mankind" last time I checked:
http://createdigitalmusic.com/2008/03/pay-what-you-will-for-nine-inch-nails-from-free-to-300/

Re:Paying for Amazon DRM == bad mkay! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41801889)

Sorry, an addendum to my Anonymous post.

I was thinking of the success of radio-head, not NIN.
http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/radiohead-publishers-reveal-in-rainbows-numbers-20081015

However, that said, while in the following article Trent Reznor was disappointed that only 1 in 5 people paid $5 for his album, he should also have been happy that 1 in 5 people were prepared to pay $5 when they could get a similar package for free.
I'm not a psychologist, but I believe an issue with Trent's model was that he confused (in the mind of the consumer) the moral decision of donate money or not, with the technical decision of do I care about the higher quality or not.
I believe these sort of models seem to work best if there is no downside involved for either decision, which makes the consumer focus purely on their own generosity.
http://news.cnet.com/8301-10784_3-9847788-7.html

Re:Paying for Amazon DRM == bad mkay! (1)

WolphFang (1077109) | about 2 years ago | (#41802589)

You can sell via Amazon and *NOT* use DRM.

Free? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41801819)

So what did the Kickstarter funders get for their cash? Free copies? Freer-than-free copies?

Why not stick it on Lulu as a free download and make some money off the hardcopy versions?

What do you even mean by 'economically sustainable'? If the marginal cost to produce a copy is zero and you've got the initial funding from Kickstarter then charging zero looks pretty economic and sustainable to me.

Re:Free? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41801869)

I think the Kickstarter campaign is at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/teachrdan/how-to-teach-adults-a-free-beautiful-e-book [kickstarter.com]

A quick skim of the pledge rewards gives

1. Recognition in the ebook.
2. A handwritten thank you note.
3. A special copy of the ebook with a different cover.
4. Teaching diagrams.
5. A printed copy of the book.
6. A 30-minute, one hour, or five hour interview with the author via Skype.

To get back to the question asked, Amazon will pay participants in their lending library a fee when their books are downloaded. Also, Amazon offers print on demand services.

Can I point out that it makes more sense to me if you treat the book as an advertising expense? Then sell advisory services. Or create an advertising-supported website where you can offer advisory services. This would be more consistent with how open source software is funded. One usually gets the software for free but pays for related services, like installation and custom modifications.

Re:Free? (2)

danspalding (560127) | about 2 years ago | (#41803335)

Thanks for actually checking my Kickstarter page, although it's on me for not realizing my post had made Ask Slashdot. I'm definitely going to use this book as a way to put myself out there as an education consultant. I don't know if I'll ever have enough high-traffic content to support an ad-based webs site, but that sounds intriguing, too. I've been deeply inspired by the open source movement - I've been running Linux since 2001 - bit adapting it to what I have to offer has been a challenge.

Re:Free? (1)

WolphFang (1077109) | about 2 years ago | (#41802617)

Very low margin on paper copy. I sell a book via Lulu for $9.95, I get ~ $1.13 royalty per book. I sell same book via Amazon kdp for $2.99, a $7 savings, I get $1.97 royalty per book. I usually sell more copies via kindle than by paper. DRM is *optional* as an author setting for Kindle. (I have mine turned *OFF*).

purchased for free. (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 2 years ago | (#41801829)

I would be pissed if I paid for something I could get for free unless I knew about it before hand.

I suppose you could offer a different jacket cover for the sale book and call it the "donation version". then offer a description detailing it was the same as the free version sans jacket.

But you might need to check with amazon. They rejected a few books before that were freely available on the internet. Those books were different though. IIRC, they were already available information collected and repackaged in book form. I'm not sure if they will see the difference though.

Re:purchased for free. (1)

WolphFang (1077109) | about 2 years ago | (#41802621)

They do see a difference.

Re:purchased for free. (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 2 years ago | (#41802917)

I would be pissed if I paid for something I could get for free unless I knew about it before hand.

So what? Are you seriously saying that you think you have a right to complain because someone is generous enough to give something away for free? You paid for it, so obviously you thought it was worth the money.

Re:purchased for free. (2)

danspalding (560127) | about 2 years ago | (#41803345)

Honestly? I think I'd be pissed, too. If I go that route I'll try to make it extra clear in the product description - and besides, if anyone hears about my e-book, they first think they'll probably hear is that it's available for free.

Sell a print version (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41801861)

A lot of technical books for courses are available for download but also sold in print. I think enough people want the hard copy that some money can be made. I don't know if you would sell enough books for this model to work but it is worth considering.

I'd like to get paid to write a book (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41801873)

You should aim for about $45/hr.

Crowd-funding (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41801877)

I Kickstarted enough money for editing, design and publicity, but not enough to pay me anything up front.

Is it possible to produce quality material for teachers to download for free in a way that's economically sustainable?

Yes it is possible, including the entire cost of the book in the crowd-funding effort would allow you to release the book for free without losing out financially.

If you don't need to guarantee breaking even then crowd-funding some of the cost and asking for donations for the rest is a good idea.

There's no problem releasing the book freely but also charging for it in some market places. If an e-book store had some registration costs then the cost of your e-book in that store should reflect this. If you want to distribute a printed copy then you should print an appropriate number and then change an amount so that selling the books will cover printing, shipping, and your time. I would avoid charging extra in a store to cover the creation costs without making it clear that the book is available for free online and that buying the book in the store is tantamount to donation.

His email is teachrdan@gmail.com - Really?! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41801901)

So let me get this straight, he's an education instructor who can't spell the word "teacher" in his email address?!

Re:His email is teachrdan@gmail.com - Really?! (1)

aurizon (122550) | about 2 years ago | (#41801949)

Yes, anyone with any awareness of e-mail addresses knows that if the name you want is taken, you make a variant.

I expect teacherdan was taken, so he used teachrdan.
I would not have used that, because too many people would correct it and send to teacherdan, but links work as they should.

Re:His email is teachrdan@gmail.com - Really?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41802701)

duh .... that isn't how you make a variant!

teacherdan5263847392@gmail.com is way better.

Smashwords (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41801917)

Put it on smashwords.com for a low price. Allow 20% of the book to be downloaded as a free sample. People who like it will pay for the rest.

Also smashwords is directly accessible via a few e-readers, does not cripple their files with Digital Restrictions Management, and from what I hear they are generally nice to work with.

No I'm not affiliated with smashwords, I just read a lot and love their model.

Amazons 70%.. (2)

DeBaas (470886) | about 2 years ago | (#41801963)

Note that if you want to get Amazon's 70% royalty instead of 35%, you can't offer it somewhere else for cheaper. I am not certain if that means you can't give it away as well, but I'd make sure.

And 35% in my view is a bit low to offer it as a way of donating. Although of course the volume of sales may be larger and you probably reach customers you'd otherwise not reach.

Re:Amazons 70%.. (2)

_Sharp'r_ (649297) | about 2 years ago | (#41803107)

If Amazon discovers your ebook is available for cheaper (say, free...) they have the right under your contract with them to mark down your ebook to that price... and they will.

So not sure how the author's proposed model works, once Amazon discovers the free version, the paid version is going to be listed as free as well.

Re:Amazons 70%.. (2)

danspalding (560127) | about 2 years ago | (#41803369)

I did not know that Amazon doubled their commission if the same book is available for less elsewhere. Do you think they'd still charge the 70% if I added a little bonus content to the paid Amazon version? I'm thinking a short chapter on how I design curriculum, etc.

Sliding Scale and Advertising (1)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | about 2 years ago | (#41801987)

Offer it up for a price you think works for you. Let teachers know that they can email you for a free copy if they can't afford the price. Honestly if you made it $5 and it is really useful, most teachers will likely spring for it.

Check Pro-Git (4, Informative)

Pastis (145655) | about 2 years ago | (#41801991)

Free ebook, paying print version. http://git-scm.com/book [git-scm.com]

Re:Check Pro-Git (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41802337)

Amazing brand names for the service. Pro-Git and git-scm really are sweet on the tounge.

Leanpub (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 2 years ago | (#41803499)

and I recommend another one: nodebeginner book, free on their own website [nodebeginner.org] with a link to a paid bundle on Leanpub [leanpub.com] .

Leanpub [leanpub.com] seems to be the thing the OP wants - simple ways to take payment for ebooks in multiple formats, low royalty overhead, and can offer free versions too.

Re:Check Pro-Git (2)

metrometro (1092237) | about 2 years ago | (#41803959)

Free open ebook, paying in the Amazon/Apple closed ecosystem.

paypal (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41802027)

Stay away from paypal at all costs.

They are sleazy and they will rip you off.

Particularly if you wind up pissing off a well connected competitor.

Re:paypal (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about 2 years ago | (#41802335)

Translation: I once tried to use paypal as a business bank account while passing myself off as a private buyer/seller and got caught.

Identical free and $$$ versions on the same page. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41802037)

Release it for free, and also put a paid-for version next to it. Be sure to issue formal receipts for the paid-for version. If it is useful, those who spend other people's money (eg. teachers with a budget from their school) will want a legitimate way to send some of their budget your way. Giving them the opportunity to buy a copy will let them so so, whilst being able to bill it as a legitimate expense.

10 ways to monetize ebooks (5, Informative)

All_One_Mind (945389) | about 2 years ago | (#41802077)

I've made some spare money writing and marketing ebooks, but I moved onto greener pastures long ago. Some of the business strategies or ideas I have had monetizing ebooks:
  • 1. Embed affiliate links to other books within the ebook
  • 2. Offer additional content that supplements the ebook for a small donation
  • 3. Require an email address/newsletter subscription before sending the free ebook, and then try and monetize through the newsletters
  • 4. Offer physical copies of the book for a fee
  • 5. Break the ebook up into smaller parts for an email newsletter series, and monetize in the newsletter
  • 6. Pledge to write additional material as certain fundraising goals are met
  • 7 .Turn the ebook into a mutipage website and populate with Google Ads
  • 8. Sell resale rights, PLR, etc.
  • 9. Initially sell the ebook only, and then unlock it for free for all people after $xxxx has been raised
  • 10. Write additional non-free books/ebooks and then use your free ebooks to advertise the pay books

Now I know many of these are not applicable to OP, but it's what worked for me before I moved onto writing GPL software instead of ebooks.

Re:10 ways to monetize ebooks (1)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | about 2 years ago | (#41802201)

9. Initially sell the ebook only, and then unlock it for free for all people after $xxxx has been raised

I like this idea very much — although I wonder if this is akin to what the Kickstarter model was meant to achieve. The author can set the reward he wants to receive for writing the book — he knows, before he starts writing too much, how much he can expect as a payment. This is his incentive to write. If he has enough people willing to pay for the work to be created, it gets funded. If not, back to the drawing board, so it does not necessarily work for "socially beneficial" works (as opposed to those which are desirable by those with the ability to pay), nor works which need long term sustained funding (such as something which needs to remain current)...

Here, it seems that the author named his price, got it, and realised it is not enough, which seems unfortunate.

A great list of suggestions, there — thank you for taking the time to post!

Re:10 ways to monetize ebooks (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about 2 years ago | (#41802341)

9. Initially sell the ebook only, and then unlock it for free for all people after $xxxx has been raised

I like this idea very much — although I wonder if this is akin to what the Kickstarter model was meant to achieve.

Yes, financially penalising your early supporters seems like a brilliant marketing move. Just imagine how keen they'll be to buy your next work.

Re:10 ways to monetize ebooks (1)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | about 2 years ago | (#41802393)

Yes, financially penalising your early supporters seems like a brilliant marketing move

I can see why someone might view it as a financial penalty for early adoption if they were somehow upset that they had had to pay and others had not. For some people, sure, I can understand that they might feel that way. For others, perhaps not so much:

One person's "financial penalty for being an early adopter" is another's chance to help get a book/game/film/whatever created, which would otherwise not exist. If I want that thing to exist enough — if someone is proposing to write a book which particularly interests me, for example — I am likely willing to pay towards its creation. For me, that's not a financial penalty, that's me helping get something which I would not otherwise have had available to me.

Those who see contributing as a financial penalty wait until — or perhaps if — it is created, and then get it for free. Those who really want it, and are in a position to do so, contribute to help make it happen, just paying up front rather than after publication.

Bonus marks to creators who agree to make the work available permissively upon release — the creator already has the money which they wanted, and so can release the work to anyone who wants it. I lose nothing — I got what I wanted from my contribution, which was the existence of the book. The author loses nothing — s/he gets what s/he stated up front as her price for the writing.

Re:10 ways to monetize ebooks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803291)

Yeah, having early adopters pay more and having the price drop as the initial cost is recouped is a sucky model.
It has caused the iPhone to become the worst failure in the history of business.
Angry people line up with pitchforks for days to complain about how unfair it is, and to assure their place in line for the next version.

Re:10 ways to monetize ebooks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41802971)

So can you give us 10 working monetization strategies for GPL software then, please? :)

I fear your expression "greener pastures" probably answers the Ask Slashdot better than your 10 points do.

"free in a way that's economically sustainable" (4, Insightful)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | about 2 years ago | (#41802127)

My view is that, if the book is the only thing you have, then, no, you cannot give it away in a way which makes money, other than asking (hoping) for donations. You may be able to ask in such a way that it encourages donations — I've no idea, but perhaps there's some research / advice on this — but, at the end of the day, you are still only requesting. Where you need to look, in my opinion, is how you could use your book to make money. If the book was one part of a wider means of making money, then you may well be able to make money from the wider model whilst giving the book away for free — the book becomes a piece of marketing for your actual revenue-making products / services.

Could you offer a printed version, at a price? Would some people pay for a hard copy version, rather than be reliant on something on their computer? If so, is there enough scope in the price of a printed version that, once set, produced, printed and shipped, there's still some money in it for you?

Does someone wishing to implement your book need any consumables which you could sell? Printed templates for class activities and so on? Access to a downloadable library of customisable templates, if not physical templates to be shipped to them?

Could you make money if the book was less free? Rather than releasing it "for free," you could release it under a partly-free licence (such as the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND), and charge for commercial re-use of the work (e.g. someone using excerpts in other textbooks and so on (where this would be more than non-infringing / fair use))?

Is there any value in offering your time/services to readers? Much like the open source support model, the code/book is there for free, but, if you need a hand with something in particular, such as working out how to implement your technique in a particular environment, or designing something for a particular school, even devising a taught course to train teachers, you pay for support. A consultation via Skype may well be desirable to some people, even running an actual course in person?

offer a printed version (4, Informative)

davecb (6526) | about 2 years ago | (#41802803)

O'Reilly discovered that people will pay real money for a printed copy even when they get an electronic copy of the book free. "Using Samba" was and is distributed free with the "Samba" SMB server program, through the initiative of my editor, Andy Oram, and the book went from a distant third on the subject to one of the company's top sellers of the year.

--dave

iBooks Author (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 2 years ago | (#41802333)

Make a version using iBook Author. Put it on the Apple iBook Store. If you want people to get a free version or pay, that's very simple: Make a sample that covers the whole book, except a page that says this person has paid. Samples are free to download, and you get a button on the last page automatically that allows to pay for the full version.

Now with my cynicial world view, making teachers pay for something that they can get for free is very, very, very difficult.

Mention it in the book (1)

ET3D (1169851) | about 2 years ago | (#41802391)

I think you shouldn't put a price on the book, but do mention the possibility of donation in the book (in the preface and possibly elsewhere). Write something like "if you enjoy this book or find it useful, please consider donating a small sum at my web page http://.../ [...] to help me create more free books."

Free low quality version (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41802395)

Why don't you do it like Diestel's Graph Theory (http://diestel-graph-theory.com/index.html).

Offer a free rasterized version, and let people pay for the ability to search, read at higher quality, etc.

DON"T USE PAYPAL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41802433)

Please don't use Paypal. Give Google Wallet a try.

I'm an author who posts their books for free (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41802443)

I'm an author who posts their books for free. I can afford too: I have a regular 9-5 job and just do this in my spare time. I'm actually an academic and so I use it to build my reputation. I have a PayPal and a Flattr link on my book pages, and I've made ... about $150 so far on my latest book - not enough to live on!

But the reason I did it that way was because of the freedom I gained. I had two books published the traditional way and the first was a horrible process driven by the publisher and the reviewers. The second was better, but I had to work hard at convincing the publisher that Interleaf was a valid document processing tool. For the third, I gave up on them and just "did my own thing," publishing alpha then beta versions over many months. So I got a presence almost from the beginning, without having to wait for the publisher's impramatur. Finally a publisher came to me to produce a paper version, and that was a much more pleasant version. Note that the publisher came to me because of the reputation I had built up by making the book open source!

So look at your goals and what you want to achieve. If you've got a writing itch that you want to scratch, then open content is a good way to go. If you want to make money, well, 99% of authors don't make a cent anyway! If you want to build reputation for use in getting invited talks, guru status, etc, then write a good well-regarded book - and get it out into the open as soon as you can.

Re:I'm an author who posts their books for free (3, Informative)

danspalding (560127) | about 2 years ago | (#41803487)

The freedom was a huge incentive. If nothing else, I get to make my book beautiful, while other educational publishers are putting some of the fugliest covers on god's green earth on their author's books. (Think I exaggerate? Look at this [google.com] . Just look at it.) With this project no one made me change the focus, or put in language I didn't like, or otherwise force a change for no good reason. If nothing else I'll have more leverage going into a traditional publishing situation next time, because I won't be a first-time author anymore.

It's hard. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41802465)

Making money from a book is hard. Making money from a book that is available free for download is likely harder. If the latter is going to be successful, your book needs to be much more popular than in the forced-paying scenario. Having it available for free definitely helps the popularity angle, but your proceeds are based on a quite smaller ratio of actual uses of the book.

With mediocre material and mediocre interest, the paying scenario will give you mediocre income, while the non-paying scenario will give you close to nothing. Starting with excellent material, marketing skills will disproportionately scale the amounts you can make from a free version. If paying you does not offer any convenience or advantage or reward, this will be very tricky. Stupid things like button placement and similar can make huge differences.

The Kickstarter listing (3, Informative)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | about 2 years ago | (#41802477)

In case seeing Dan's Kickstarter listing [kickstarter.com] might help inform the debate.

Re:The Kickstarter listing (1)

metrometro (1092237) | about 2 years ago | (#41803981)

Quoting money commitments:

The funds I raise will cover professional editing and design, because I believe people use resources most when they're as beautiful as they are practical. Funds will also go toward publicity so that teachers will know that this free e-book exists.

Any funds raised beyond the initial goal will go toward putting the book online as a website and funding travel for presentations and additional research. I may also give myself a small stipend out of any additional funds.

Was in a similar situation. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41802519)

As someone that did something similar (high school world history textbook in my case) I ended up developing different versions, and pushed them out through different channels.

-A PDF and unDRMed ebook can be had from my class website for free for students.
-A version with practice questions, interactives such as maps, timelines and videos, and additional student resources can be purchased through the Apple Store, or as a paper copy.
-A teacher version, with all the student assignments, rubrics, lecture slides and standards, and a ton of other resources can be purchased through my website.

My whole project was born through not having enough textbooks for my students to take home, and the textbooks I did have did a poor job of teaching the material and meeting the curriculum maps set out by the school system I work for. Thus, if my students want to take the textbook home, they can either grab a paper copy, or use the electronic version. If they want additional practice and resources, they can purchase it, and I ended up giving a lot of my stuff to new teachers, so I figured they would pay a couple of hundred dollars to have something to build their own curriculum from. I'm never going to get rich off of my work, but that wasn't why I did it. My two cents.

yes you can (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 2 years ago | (#41802541)

If you give it away for free, you can charge for worshops based off of the material in the book. In fact, probably, you must give it away so that enough people get to preview the material. Think of the book as advertising for the workshops. If you don't advertise, then nobody will come. How do you advertise? You give away the book.

Of course, if your book isn't any good, then nobody will want to meet you. But I'm assuming that you think sufficiently highly of the work that you produced, that you are willing to take the chance.

To break even, figure out how many people would buy the book if it stinks, then that's how many people need to come to the first few workshops. You maximize the chance that they will come to those workshops by distributing the book widely. Also, the workshops will allow you to revise the book and improve it using feedback from interested people.

Make it cheap (1)

horza (87255) | about 2 years ago | (#41802543)

Just put out a cheap version, eg $5. Go for volume. Those that want a free version will go to a torrent site. A percentage of those that pirate it will end up buying it if they find it useful. Sell ad space in the last 2 pages. Offer a printed version with audio commentary on CD for $20.

Phillip.

Re:Make it cheap (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803027)

A percentage of those that pirate it will end up buying it if they find it useful.

Sure, zero is a percentage ...

Seems pretty straightforward (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41802673)

Unless you are desperate for money, consider not trying to make money out of it at all - a free version of what you are doing would look super-amazing on your CV, and would end up making you way more than a few thousand dollars in the long haul. Some guys who wrote some poor-quality FOSS educational software managed somehow to get on the front page of slashdot with a link to their product a couple of weeks ago, and wound up selling a pitiful 30 copies (last time I checked).

If you still want to monetize:

Have the free version on your site, and put a Kindle version on Amazon for $5. Offer a "special edition" print version if you think you will sell enough copies.

Have google adwords/amazon affiliate/donate to Paypal links on your website.

If you are intending to make money to further enhance your project, let people know this. If you are spending it on living expenses, also let people know. Telling the truth upfront is a long-forgotten but surprisingly effective marketing technique.

Pay what you want? (2)

kubajz (964091) | about 2 years ago | (#41802675)

When I read your post I realized that I would like to pay something between your suggested $1 and $10. And each time you give that choice to one of your customers they will pay less than what they're willing to, not more. If you're able to offer a "pay what you want" option (but require to pay at least $0.01) you can rest assured that many of your customers will go higher than the "pre-set" options you might offer them. Not a complete solution but at least my 2 cents.

Your Kickstarter plan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41802813)

I would be sure to stick with what you said you would do on the Kickstarter campaign. You owe that to the people who donated to the cause. I doubt most donated for a cheap copy of a to be written book but instead thought they were supporting a project that would provide a free opportunity to train teachers to work with adults. With a post like this and without a link to your Kickstarter project it leads me to believe that your looking for justification for monetizing a project that you said you would not. I hope I am wrong but if it were me I would be sure the project lived up to what it said it would (no to say that it is not, I do not know) and if it did not do this I would consider it a failure. I am sure those that donated would agree.

BN too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41802873)

Make it available from BN too.

Training Seminars (1)

foniksonik (573572) | about 2 years ago | (#41802883)

Start a new Kickstarter. This time it's for setting up a training seminar series.

A book is good but workshops are better.

The Kickstarter is for tickets to the seminar. Your goal is similar to the crowd sourced concert series featured here on /. previously. I believe it was a plan to get enough tickets paid to cover costs (including your time) for a small private show but hoping for enough participants for a larger more profitable show.

Give the book away at the seminar. Give it away on a website - but market the seminar series on the same website.

If you have a good product/service you will get the attention you deserve. If it was my book I'd look at a version that targets businesses and consultants who primarily are "training" adults in addition to "education". Talk to local recruiting agencies, local community colleges, local prisons.

Good luck!

Auction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803095)

You could Auction the freedom off. You could do it either by setting a time limit, number of freedom donations or total cost of the freedom price you set.
Dont sell the book, sell the freedom.

Gutenberg.org (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41803793)

or manybooks.net

or archive.org or

many other free e-books web sites with a link on your home page to those sistes for your free downloads.

Gutenberg.org was the original e-book web site, I believe.

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