Finally, the podcast novel movement seems to be gaining steam. JC Hutchins, Scott Sigler, and Cory Doctorow are all taking advantage of streaming audio to grab listener attention, and at least in some cases focusing that advantage into print book sales. This is an interesting time to be an author.
At the same time, I can’t help but wonder if this new generation of alternate-format marketing is actually detrimental to e-books. From what I can tell, JC Hutchins is hoping to use his large audience to land a big print publisher for his 7th Son trilogy. (I think he may also be selling copies through Lulu in the meantime.) Scott Sigler uses the podiobook exposure to sell print books, and after the audio book has finished its first run he sells the entire audio set on iTunes (and elsewhere). Cory Doctorow? He too uses the podiobook to sell print books. He also gives away the text as PDF, HTML, plain text, Microsoft Reader, Mobipocket, Sony eReader, Ereader, Palm Doc, iPod notes, and Plucker PDB.
What does this tell me about his books? It tells me that when I buy his book from Amazon, I’m paying for the paper because the content has no value. I am afraid that Cory, and to a lesser extent JC, Scott, and a host of other authors using creative commons to promote their work, are training readers to place value only in wood pulp bound together with glue rather than a well-told story. Readers are being trained to expect audiobooks and e-books to be free, because only physical books are worth paying for. It isn’t like they are the first—Baen has been giving away e-book editions of their print titles for a number of years—but each author who uses this marketing technique influences numerous others to try the same. But what’s the big deal? So what if people value actual books over text or audio files?
The problem arises when a creative work is only available in one format. In short, what about books that aren’t available in print but only in e-book format? Are authors who try to sell e-books at a disadvantage because readers are being trained by Cory to expect e-books as free promotional material instead of something worth paying for? Will readers place enough value to pay for an audiobook or e-book when other authors treat those formats as second-rate citizens?
What’s the solution? At this stage, I’m not sure. I certainly won’t gainsay the success some authors have experienced using creative commons to market their work. But as pointed out on the Bloggasm piece, some of that success stems merely from the novelty of the approach. As more authors jump on the bandwagon, will they see diminishing returns? Is it too late to re-train readers to value content rather than format? What do you think?
Note: The fifth paragraph was edited slightly for clarity on 4/10 at 8:50 am.