The following article is from today's Chicago Tribune and deals with Steven King's rather revolutionary publishing venture where he is selling his new book chapter-by-chapter over the web, with the understanding that 75% of folks have to pay for the download if there are going to be any additional chapters.
I've had some in-depth discussions with Napster fans to see how they perceive what they are doing. Most of the justifications are along the following lines:
#1 - The music industry is greedy. They charge too much for CDs. I'm going to screw them over and get the music free.
#2 - There are all sorts of rarities, re-mixes, alternative versions, etc. out there which are impossible to get otherwise (and often the bands make these available through their own sites).
#3 - The music I'm trying to get is out of print. How am I supposed to get this in the siberian wastes in which I reside if not via the web?
Needless to say, there are SERIOUS ethical problems with reason #1 ... while reasons #2 and #3 are quite valid and are what SHOULD be being made available on the web. The Steven King project has made me think that there are other possibilities.
It is too bad that there isn't some "great depository" of music available on the web ... with nice secure, virus-free files, on real fast servers ... where you could log in and download ... for a reasonable fee. Although I haven't checked it out, I understand that K-Tel is doing something like this on the web now, but with a limited library of material. Wouldn't it be super if all the record companies got together and put ALL the music (as far back as their libraries would allow) on a huge mega-server and charged something like 25¢ per song to download it ... with 15¢ going to the artist and 10¢ going to the host company. This would mean that a 12-song album (it would be nice to have .pdf files of the cover art, etc. too) would cost $3.00 to download, of which the artist would get $1.80 ... this would be a FAIR system, and I think folks would definitely pay that much for the music.
Unfortunately, there is a TRUTH in reason #1 above and the Record companies would never go for this. Why? Well, aside from all the SHIT in the industry (see Courtney Love's rants on this elsewhere), the record companies are pushing PRODUCT not artists ... which explains all the crap that gets popular ... is Brittany Spears better than Type O Negative? No! ... but one gets shoved down the public's throat until they submit and the other hovers around the darker corners hoping for somebody to notice. The recording industry is TERRIFIED of real popular distribution since it would make all the vapid boy bands and pop teen gals that they put out year in and year out appear as the pablum they are.
Anyway, here's this article on the new King book:
The following article was selected from the Internet Edition of the Chicago Tribune. To visit the site, point your browser to http://chicagotribune.com/.
----------- Chicago Tribune Article Forwarding----------------
STEPHEN KING E-NOVEL SETS STAGE FOR MORE
By Joe Salkowski
Like all good mysteries, the ending of Stephen King's latest
experiment in online distribution is far from clear.
Critics predicted that, as with most King novels, this saga would be a
horror story. But the author says his unconventional high-tech tale is
headed for a happy ending.
King recently released the first installment of his unfinished
novel "The Plant" on his Web site (www.stephenking.com).
While the 20-page chapter can be downloaded for free, the millionaire
author is asking people to pay $1 each time they grab a copy. If more
than a fourth fail to do so, King says, he'll stop releasing
installments after the second one.
"Pay and the story rolls. Steal and the story folds," King says on the
site. "No stealing from the blind newsboy!"
The thing is, Net users have been ripping off that newsboy so
frequently that it's a wonder he's still in business.
Pirated music and bootleg films are traded every second of the day
without regard for the rights of their creators or their corporate
partners. King has experienced this reality firsthand.
Earlier this year, hackers distributed unauthorized copies of "Riding
the Bullet," his first e-novella, after cracking its copyright
That 16,000-word story, made available online through publisher Simon
& Schuster, still sold 500,000 copies at $2.50 a pop, earning King a
cool $450,000. But most of those King e-novella copies were bought by
Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, then given away for free.
This time, King won't have to split the profits with a publisher. If
500,000 people pay a buck for the first chapter, he gets $500,000.
Of course, King will have to pay for Web hosting and marketing, as
well as the credit card processing, which Amazon.com is probably
kicking in for next to nothing.
But even if most people stiff him, he's likely to come out ahead.
King has had the first few chapters of "The Plant" written since the
early 1980s. So, for him, the process is a little like auctioning off
old junk on eBay.
This makes me wonder why King is even bothering with that 75 percent
payment rate. If he makes as much money as he needs with a lower rate,
why wouldn't he keep publishing new chapters? The point may be moot.
King recently announced that more than 75 percent of those who
downloaded the chapter in its first week had paid.
"When the dust settles," King said, he expects "a pay-through rate of
Of course, the rate may drop as the ranks of his most rabid fans give
way to those simply curious about the process. Also, word of his
success might convince newcomers that there's no need to pay since
others before them have pumped up the stats.
Still, the early success suggests popular authors might well be able
to use the Net to route around traditional publishers.
And coming improvements in print-on-demand technology will allow them
to deliver real books to stores across the country instead of relying
on the unsatisfying process of on-screen reading.
The question, then, is whether this would work for lesser-known
The cost of credit card processing makes it difficult to turn a profit
from small batches of $1 transactions.
Marketing also is a problem, since most authors don't have the luxury
of a fan base that will scour the Internet for any word of a new
Human nature should, I think, be the least of their concerns. The
reason most people feel comfortable trading pirated media online is
because they figure they're only stealing from some megacorporation
that doesn't need their money anyway.
Given the option of paying a reasonable fee directly to the creator,
most people will usually take the high road.
There will always be some who steal whatever they can grab,
particularly under the Net's anonymous cover of darkness.
But King's experiment is proving that even a rich guy can expect most
Net users to pay for his products--even when his back is turned.