Accepting piracy and moving to a better system?

There was a time, not so long ago, when I was a prolific blogger. I even considering trying to make a living from it. I made some serious strides in that direction, having created a reasonable reader base on Brighthub and publishing a book.

I really quite enjoyed tinkering with open source multimedia libraries and sharing my experiences. The best thing about blogging on these technologies is that you got to enjoy the "ah-hah" moment of getting something to work without having to deal with the last 95% of work which usually involves tweaking, refining, marketing, supporting and publishing a product.

Unfortunately, neither venture really worked out on a financial level. Brighthub ended up taking all contributions made to the main web site and stopped paying any revenue to the writers, and my book is now making only a handful of sales. So while I consider both experiences to have been valuable, I can't consider either of them to have been financially rewarding. Which is a shame, because now with a mortgage and the very real financial responsibilities that go along with that, devoting time to projects that don't provide at least some kind of financial payoff is not really an option.

So what is a frustrated blogger to do?

Kickstarter. The concept is simple. You propose a project, and the community either backs you or doesn't.

I like Kickstarter for two reasons.

First is that it lets you set a reasonable price on your time up front. You don't have to slave away in the hope that your efforts will be rewarded, only to find the rug pulled out from under your feet.

Second is that you can publish the end product without the delusion that the traditional system of paying a fixed amount of money for a digital product has any meaning any more.

The last one is a big issue. As someone who has published content available in an electronic format aimed at an audience who is savvy enough to know how to enter a search on a torrent or file hosting service, I know full well that any money I made was from the voluntary donations made by the community. These "voluntary donations" may have been in the form of a legitimate purchase through my publishers web site or Amazon, but the end result is the same. Those who wanted to pay for my work did so, those who did not simply downloaded a copy through the many, varied and trivial methods that are available for pirating digital content.

So why not skip the publishers, the pirates, the resellers and the entire notion of "user pays" and simply admit that any digital product is paid for by that (I can only assume small) percentage of the community who actually believes that your work is worth spending real money on, while being consumed by a large audience who will never give you any money?

So my question is this: would you contribute to a book on something like HTML5 game development if it was funded through Kickstarter, if it was to be published for all to see on something like WikiBooks? Add a comment with your thoughts.


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