Cas – Tom Reynolds-Blood&Sweat&Tea – Suw – 2007

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Case Area: publishing

Tom Reynolds: Blood, Sweat and Tea

Author: Suw Charman and Michael Holloway

Executive Summary

Tom Reynolds is an Emergency Medical Technician and blogger, who writes about his ambulance work on his blog, Random Acts of Reality. In 2005 he compiled some of his blog entries into a book, Blood, Sweat and Tea, published by The Friday Project, who specialise in taking content from the web and publishing it to a mainstream audience. Blood, Sweat and Tea

has sold very well: it reached eighth in the bestseller chart and has been in the top 100 almost continuously. It was The Friday Project’s top-selling title for 2006, and was

nominated for Best Innovation at the 2007 British Book Industry Awards.

Tom decided to publish his book simultaneously in print and online, in full, under a Creative Commons “Attribution, Non-commercial, Share Alike” licence (CC BY-NC-SA) and The Friday Project agreed, hosting a PDF of the entire book and offering to host any derivative works created by readers. The Friday Project already knew about CC licences and felt that making the book available online would build interest and that downloads would translate into real sales. Rather than viewing it as a risk, they believed that the free electronic version of the book would promote the print version, and that sales would improve as people could ‘try before they buy’.

Technically, the project was very simple because the files were small enough to be offered as a direct download, in PDF or plain text formats, and CC licences are very easy to obtain from the Creative Commons site. The PDF was produced using the page files from the book, which were considered to be already very readable and user-friendly. The project incurred no additional costs for either Tom or The Friday Project; although Tom expected additional bandwidth bills, these did not materialise.

Neither Tom nor The Friday Project ran into any legal problems, although Clare Christian, MD and Publishing Director for The Friday Project said that distributors might have had objections, because they receive commission on sales and so may have felt that giving the book away was an unnecessary risk. However, given the small scale of the experiment, Clare believes they turned a blind eye.

Tom was keen to release the book under CC, so that others could make derivative works such as translations and plays. In reality, people converted it for reading on different e-book readers. These non-commercial reuses didn’t prevent Tom from selling commercial rights for TV, film and radio. Through The Friday Project, Tom has sold the BBC a radio adaptation, and a TV option to production company Mentorn. Tom has made about £7,000 in royalties from Blood, Sweat and Tea, and both book and blog have opened up many opportunities for him, including writing for newspapers, radio appearances and the possibility of writing for television drama


The risk of releasing a free version was that people would not buy it, but read the CC download, thus cannibalising sales. Clare says that if there had been any evidence of this, she would not have gone ahead. Instead, she believes that Tim O’Reilly is correct when he says that obscurity is a far greater threat to an artist than making their works available online. Tom did receive some attention from the media for the book — on TV, radio, and in print. Most of the coverage was about his job; only print journalists seemed interested in the Creative Commons story. But according to Clare, the CC experiment prompted more publicity and discussion within the trade press.

Over a year after publication, it is clear that the free online book hasn’t damaged sales. Blood, Sweat and Tea remains one of The Friday Project’s best sellers, selling about 25,000 units. That would be a strong performance for any publishing house, but is very good for a small publisher. Indeed, The Friday Project saw a spike in sales when the CC edition was released, although it is difficult to be sure whether that surge was a direct result of the release of the free version, or just an increase in interest because of media attention.

Tom believes that one of the most important factors in the books success was the community that has built up around his blog, which is very popular and garners a lot of attention. He feels that it is important to have a community of readers before releasing a book, the same way that a band gigs before releasing an album.

Both Tom and Clare went into the experiment with very open minds, and have been pleasantly surprised by its success. The only disappointment for Tom was lack of engagement from his readers with the Creative Commons version. The licence Tom chose allowed for reuse, but very few people made derivative works. This may have been due to a lack of promotion of the CC version, but was certainly not helped by a server crash that lost many of the new e-book versions people had made. Clare would have liked to have spent more time and resources promoting the Creative Commons edition, and Tom has vowed to promote the CC edition of his next book more heavily.

The publishing industry is struggling to come to terms with the way that the internet is changing their business, and Clare believes that the only way forward is to accept it and adapt to it. She and Tom foresee the industry shifting to a new model where the author is more visible than they have traditionally been and are at the centre of a community of committed fans. Neither of them see Tom as a special case, and believe that any author or publisher can use the same model.

The future is not predictable, though, and there is the possibility that advances in e-book reader technology could damage this business model by making print books unnecessary in the way that MP3 players have made CDs unnecessary. But neither Tom nor Clare believes that the

technology is close to achieving that yet.

Full Case Study



He started his blog, Random Acts of Reality [3], in July 2003 and has been writing constantly ever since, mainly about his ambulance job. He carefully obscures patients' details to protect their privacy, but still provides an insight into what goes on behind closed ambulance doors.

Random Acts of Reality is a popular blog and has won the Love to Lead [4] and Medgadget [5, 6] blog awards.

Tom decided to gather some of his blog posts into a book and, after discussions with a number of publishers, settled on The Friday Project, a new small publisher focused on Web content. Clare Christian, MD and Publishing Director, is responsible for sourcing material from the web and developing their book list. The Friday Project published its first three titles in October 2005 and Tom's book in August 2006.

"Our skill," says Clare, "is creating books from sites that have got a good online audience in their web form, and that would appeal to a mass market audience. There's still an awful lot of people that are not using the web in the same way that perhaps you and I are, and a lot of those people would enjoy the material that we enjoy online. So that's the appeal: bringing the Web to a much wider audience."

Blood, Sweat and Tea is a general interest book often filed in the biography section. According to The Friday Project's newsletter from January 2007 [7], it "reached number eight in the bestseller chart", had "rarely been out of the top 100 since publication", and was on its third print run. It was The Friday Project's best-selling title for 2006 and was even

nominated for Best Innovation, at the 2007 publishers awards.

Far from being the kind of niche product that you might expect for a book that was born on the internet, Blood, Sweat and Tea appeals to a wide range of people. "The fan mail I get comes from all over the place," says Tom. "All different people. The draw is that not many ambulance people have written a book, not many ambulance people blog."

A web veteran, Tom decided to publish his book simultaneously in print, and online, in full, under a Creative Commons (CC) [8] "Attribution, Non-commercial, Share Alike (by-nc-sa)" license. The Friday Project agreed with his decision, hosting a PDF of the book and offering to host any derivative works that readers created.

Making the decision to release under CC

So how did Tom convince The Friday Project to let him release the book under Creative

Commons? After getting an initial offer from another publisher, Tom felt that he had little to lose when talking to The Friday Project.

"I said that I'd really like to release it under Creative Commons license," Tom explains, "so it's available for free download. And they looked at each other, and it was like, 'But, you charge for it like an e-book?' And I said, 'No, no, no, it goes out all on its own, as a free download.' 'Like, part of it?' 'No, all of it.' 'Ok, alright!'. And that was about it. Once I had explained it, it was just, 'Yeah ok. We don't see a problem with that.' So I was really impressed."


"From a commercial perspective, publishers tend to think that giving stuff away is not

necessarily a good thing, but we felt that making material available would build interest in Tom. I believe it translates into real sales every times because people will enjoy it and recommend it and it will help Tom build up a fan base. We were at a point where we could take what may be perceived by some to be a slight risk, but it was not necessarily perceived by us to be a risk, so it wasn't a huge decisions."

"With The Friday Project," Tom continues, "I'm one of the four or six books that they were releasing at that time. With Hodder, it would have been book number 2072 out of 6000 released this quarter."

For The Friday Project, it wasn't just about experimenting with CC, but also about learning more about releasing e-books.

"It was good," explains Clare Christian, "because it gave us an idea of the best way of format e-books, if we were to go down the e-book route."

The fact that everything in the book was already online was another factor in the decision. The material was already in the public's hands, and there was no way that Tom was going to take it offline. However, despite his own commitment to CC, Tom still had some butterflies himself.

"When it came to signing the contract, even though I'm vehemently for Creative Commons, I was still hyperventilating like a nutter. Saying 'Yes, it's going to work, it's going to work. My gut is saying it won't, but it will, it will.' And it did.

"I remember the good old days of using a text-based Linux browser, starting off at CERN as your homepage, and people were putting their websites up for free. I remember looking at The Complete Encyclopaedia of Babylon 5, nerd that I am, and it was all free. It's not been long enough to say that I've been raised to believe in free information, but it's been so long it's got under my skin."

A simple model

The model in this case is very simple: The free electronic version of the book promotes the print version, and the hope is that sales will improve because readers can take a look at the book before they decide to buy.

Technically, it was very simple too; the files were small enough to be offered as a simple download, and there were no technical challenges to be surmounted. "It was a case of just hosting it on the server," says Tom. And for the licence, "the Creative Commons website is really simple to use, even for someone with no legal knowledge like myself. You just click, click, click, submit and cut and paste. It was really easy."

Clare also found it easy, "It was pretty straightforward, just a case of uploading a PDF to the site … so we are trying to do it a lot more with other books. Although I don't think anything else is available in full, a lot of our books are available in part under the Creative Commons licence.


going to come out in future in terms of e-readers, so you need to store the files in the most easily adaptable way."

Neither Tom nor The Friday Project incurred any additional costs as a result of making the files available; although Tom was expecting some bandwidth bills, these did not materialise.

"If a huge author was doing the same thing," says Clare, "I don't know if there would be any implications then, but at the end of the day this is still quite experimental and only a relatively small number of people are downloading it."

Equally, The Friday Project didn't come across any legal problems. There were none with respect to the author, given that it was Tom's idea, but potentially there could have been problems with distributors. Clare says, "In terms of the sales and distribution arrangement that we have, they may have a different view of us effectively giving away a product that they are selling for us and receiving a commission on. But because it's on a relatively small scale at the moment, I think they've turned a blind eye, although when we first announced the Creative Commons edition, we saw a real spike in hard copy sales, so they can't complain too much."

One thing that Tom has not done is to have a donation button on his blog, to allow people to voluntarily pay for the digital version of his book. "I took the donate button off my website," he says, "because it didn't seem worth it. I'd get these donations come through, but it made me feel dirty, to be honest." Partly this was because Tom doesn't see writing as work, but as a hobby: "I've always had the sort of job where you go to work, do something physical and very intensive for 12 hours, and then come home. That's what work is. This is more fun."


"People can muck around with it," Tom says. "They can translate it, they can turn it into plays. It's basically out there in the wild and, as long as people credit me, I don't care what they get up to. People have converted it to different e-book readers, like Mobi and Microsoft Reader."

Tom also made a plain text file available, to make it easier for people to reuse his book and convert it to different formats, but saw no need to provide any other file types. He did consider publishing it in Second Life [9], something that he may still do to promote the American version (to be released in 2008) and the UK sequel.

And some people did take the opportunity to reuse the content. Clare explains, "In the first couple of weeks of it being up there, we had people upload about five different versions, where they downloaded it and meddled and put it up in a different format. That was quite exciting. That was good." Unfortunately, a server crash meant that many of the versions put together by Tom's readers have been lost.

But these unofficial, non-commercial reuses have not precluded the sale of commercial rights for TV, film and radio. Through The Friday Project, Tom has negotiated a fee for the BBC to adapt the book for radio, and has been able to negotiate selling the TV option to UK production company Mentorn [10].

Additional lines of income


newspapers and appear on the radio, and may also get the opportunity to write for television drama Casualty. This additional stream of income was unexpected.

Publications aren't often syndicating Tom's blog posts, however, because editors want fresh material. Instead of syndicating an old blog post or part of his book, they commission him to write about current issues.

Because of these new sources of income, the blog, book, and its sequel, may have a dramatic impact is on Tom's career in the long run.

"Like all ambulance people," he says, "I look to the day when my back finally gives out. It's one of the biggest reasons why people get out [of the ambulance service]. They're lugging some 20 stone bloke up four flights of stairs and their back goes. There's not a great deal of job

progression — if I want to progress, I'll end up in an office, which would probably kill me of boredom.

"So I'm stuck on the road, the shiftwork is literally killing me, I'm getting spat on and shat on and I'm getting paid £10 an hour for it. The job is not getting any better, so I'm keeping half an eye on getting out and reducing my workload, but it would be a big, big leap to take."

What are the benefits?

The obvious benefit is that the free version promotes the physical product:

"The big problem is getting people like Smiths and Borders to promote the book. It's the bizarre way in which publishers pay to have their books placed and such. It's a weird little business. It's really hard; publicity is a real problem. You've got your JK Rowlings and Maeve Bincheys taking up loads of room, and 'Oh look, here's a new book from them'. So smaller books just get thrown on the shelf or not stocked at all. It was quite a big thing to actually be stocked in the shops, to be honest."

Tom credits Scott Pack, who was head buyer at Waterstone's at the time, but who now works for The Friday Project, with getting booksellers to take his book seriously: "Because he applauded it, everyone else said, 'Oh, if Scott likes it, it must be alright.' He's been called the most influential man in books."

There are secondary, more personal benefits as well.

"There's the whole ego stroking of people thanking you. Don't dismiss the idea of ego stroking, it's a wonderful thing. The fun of going into London and talking on the BBC. I mean, I'm a taxi driver with bandages, so all this is an entirely new world. And it's not necessarily financial rewards, but it's a reward nonetheless.

"That and that sense of community, you know? That sense of doing something that people enjoy. And this isn't specific to Creative Commons, but by releasing through Creative Commons people have had more chance to read my work, and they write to me and we become friends."

The risks, and mitigating them


"That, of course, was the madness: If you were sure that it was going to cut into your sales then there would be no business sense in doing that. But there was nothing to suggest that would happen. And there's that quote by Tim O'Reilly, where he says that obscurity is a far greater threat to an artist than making their works available online, and I think that's true. It's better to be known about and talked about than for nobody to know about you at all. It's just common sense really."

That risk was mitigated because Tom had an existing relationship with his readers: "It worked because of that whole community that I'd built up — well, less that I'd built up, but that had accreted around me — through the comments on my blog.

"People think they know you — and to a certain extent they do, because part of what you write is part of yourself. And so, because you've built up a one-to-many relationship they think they know you and feel they owe you for writing. Which all helps. So I didn't think the risk was huge — I mean, it'd be interesting to see what would happen if someone just appeared out of nowhere with a Creative Commons e-book and a publishing deal, whether you need that sort of

community. It's like the difference between playing gigs and releasing an album, I think. You need to gig before you release an album."

Another potential risk, raised during a Radio 4 debate with Clare, was that giving works away for free devalues them in the public's eyes. "I see, slightly, where he's coming from, but I don't think he quite understood the point. I think he thought we were just giving stuff away and not realising any value anywhere, but the way I see it, from a business perspective, is that giving stuff away is much more marketing support. Obviously we are not doing it to be kind, we are doing it because we hope that there will be a some kind of relationship between the downloads and the sales, so we see it as marketing activity rather than anything else and I think that's the point the guy on this programme was missing."

The decision was made easier because Tom didn't expect to make any money out of the book at all, writing it not initially as a career move but because it's a subject he is passionate about: "I thought, it's a nice little experiment, and any money I make out of it is free money, as very little work went into it. But this is how I view my writing. It's something I enjoy doing, and if it sells two copies, then it sells two copies. It doesn't matter hugely."

The importance of community

The project has had a positive reaction from Tom's readers, although there had been no expectation from them that the book would necessarily be released for free.

Whilst it is very difficult to tease apart all of the different factors that make the book a success, Tom has some thoughts: "The key factor was the blog. The key factor was having played those gigs first, before releasing the album. You know, it's an insanely popular blog, it astounds me, the amount of people that read it. And it was important that I'd built that relationship with people, I'd built up word-of-mouth previously."

But still, Tom remains surprised that his book became so popular and that the CC download worked: "The butterflies were there. The whole, 'Oh man, I'm knee-capping myself!' fear. And it worked. And it worked really well. I wish there was a parallel universe I could visit and see how well it did without CC. Because I am convinced it wouldn't have sold as well."


"The reason we started the company," says Clare, "was to publish a book from our own Web community. We had no money, so we pre-sold it to our existing fan base. We said 'You'll get the book in time for Christmas and your words will be in it.'. And we raised enough money to print it, but when we stood back and looked at at that, we thought 'There are loads of brilliant web sites far better than ours with huge readerships and really loyal fan bases, and I think there's a business model here'. Any book has to be marketable in the open, mass market, but we were really conscious of the importance of the loyal fan base online. If you know that the word of mouth is such — this happened with Tom's book in particular — that people that are reading him online are recommending him to their Nan, then you know there's going to be that pick up outside of the web community."


Tom had a reasonable amount of publicity around the release of the book — on TV, radio, and in print. However the majority of the coverage was about his job more than in the fact that there was a free version of his book online.

"It was all run of the mill stuff," Tom says. It was 'Ooh, ambulance! That's interesting, we haven't had that before.' I can't remember any interviewer asking about it being released free. Trying to get a concept like Creative Commons across in a two minute slot is really rather tricky. It's much easier to concentrate on the sexy bits: 'Ooh, what happens in an ambulance?', rather than what is for the vast majority of people a quite arcane set of rules about copyright."

Indeed, only print journalists seemed interested in the Creative Commons version at all. But the CC experiment got more publicity within the trade press than the consumer press, according to Clare:

"The publishing industry is a very archaic, slow-moving industry and when the Friday Project began we had lots of ideas, even if we weren't able to actually do all of them. We're pushing the limits, if you like, of what publishing has already done. When we announced the Creative Commons initiative it gave us some kind of page space, if you like. Whether people agreed with what we were doing or not, it certainly gave people something to talk about, and I think that's always a good thing."


Tom's expectations were fairly low. He thought that his book would "vanish without a trace", that he would get his 10 free copies, perhaps make his advance back, and that that is would be that. For it to sell as well as it has was a "pleasant surprise".

His criteria for success included sales, income, critical success and publicity and he feels that it has been successful in all those counts.


Clare also went into the project with an open mind: "It was an experiment with no real

expectations, we wanted to do it just to see what happened, and we were in a position where we could. In a larger publishing house you'd have to have a very strong proposal for doing it, but we could just try it out for fun really. Tom wanted to do it and we loved Tom's work and we

believed in the reasons that he gave for wanting to do it, and so we thought, 'Well, why not?'"

So, did it work?

Clare says, "By our standards the book is one of our best sellers. It's sold about 25,000 units now, which is pretty good. That would be a very strong selling book within any publishing house, but it's really good for a small publisher."

It's very hard to know whether the CC version had a direct impact on sales. As Cory Doctorow is fond of saying, we don't have access to a parallel universe in which Tom did not release the book online as a CC edition, so we can't do any sort of a meaningful comparison between the two options. The Friday Project did see a very strong spike in sales when the Creative Commons edition was released.

Clare says, "It's very difficult to be sure whether that spike was a result of the interest in the book as a product, or whether it was as a result of people actually downloading it and then going to buy it. I can't really be sure, but what I can say for sure is that there was a definite spike at the time of the Creative Commons edition.

"The counter argument is the fact that we don't have a 'control experiment' going along side. Maybe if we hadn't published it in that way, maybe we would have sold 50,000 copies. I suspect not, my instincts say not, but there is always that variable there. Although we do now put some of our books up in part under the same sort of licence, sometimes the authors don't like it, so we don't do it. I think it does need to be judged on a book by book basis."

Tom also believes that there is a correlation between the CC version and sales:

"Blog readers who buy my book are buying it because they like me, and they want to give me some sort of reward. However, whether that's reward for writing the book or a reward for blogging on a daily basis, I'm not sure. The people who haven't read the blog buy the book because, obviously, it's wonderful. It feels like cheating to just cut, paste and rewrite for a second time. I want to give them something that makes them feel that they've bought something new, rather than just patted me on the head."

Although it's difficult to be sure without doing a proper study, Tom feels that the people who downloaded the e-book and the people who bought the paper book were one and the same. When authors provide an electronic version of their book for free online, the assumption is that readers can try before they buy. In Tom's case, this seems to have been borne out. "I've had emails to that effect, that they read chunks, know they're liking it, but I'd like to read it in the bath or on the bus".

"The people who downloaded the e-book have often bought it. I get emails saying 'I read it online, thought it was great, so I bought it, and I bought my mum a copy too'. So yes, it's like they're paying for that little download. It's almost like the donation model, but it's a fixed


Clare agrees: "It's still not such a satisfying reading experience, reading something that you have downloaded, whether you print it out or read it on a monitor. But there were quite a few

comments on Tom's blog where they said, 'I've just downloaded the PDF and now I'm going to go off and buy it, because it was so great that I want to contribute some money to thank you for publishing it'. It was quite interesting that people were still conscious that a lot of work had gone in to it on Tom's side, because there is this perception that anything on the web should be free. But people were willing to go out, having read it and enjoyed it, and buy the print copy."

"Despite what Cory Doctorow says," Tom adds, "people don't like reading off screens. They like dead trees, so they'll buy the dead tree. I've done it myself. If people like it, even if they have managed to stick through the entire e-book version, they've then gone and bought the dead tree version to a) have an artefact, a thing to own, and b) to pass it round to their mates. Us

computery, internet-y type people have got this terrible idea that the world is the internet, that everyone knows how to use it and it's all really important, but most people don't use the internet the way we do. They'll buy using Amazon, but won't email an e-book to their Nan."


The only way in which it hasn't been as successful as Tom would have liked it in the amount of engagement readers have shown with the Creative Commons version. The licence Tom chose allowed for reuse, but very few people did in fact it do anything with the work.

"I would have liked people translating it into different languages on the Creative Commons side, because you know you hear old Doctorow going on about how it's translated into Serbo-Croat, or whatever, which would have been nice but you know obviously that's a huge amount of work for someone."

But this lack of engagement may have been due to a lack of promotion of the Creative Commons version as well as a server crash the lost many of the new formats is people had converted the file into. Why did Tom not do more promotion of the free version?

"I did mention it, I did a little post explaining why, but it seemed a bit too self-promotional. I'm in this weird position where if I don't write about ambulances and sick people I feel like I'm cheating my readers, because that's what they've come to my site for. So to keep writing about the book seemed like going off topic."

It may also have been due to the different nature of his audience compared to people like Cory Doctorow or Lawrence Lessig. Doctorow and Lessig are both firmly embedded in the free culture community; for many of their readers, reuse is not just about what they can do with a work, but is an affirmation of their beliefs. As Tom says "people who read Doctorow or Lessig are Creative Commons buffs, so they're more willing to put a bit of work in to making it a success. Because there's that ownership in the idea of Creative Commons. Whereas my book's basically bought by women who like reading about people being sick."


The sequel

Tom will definitely release the sequel, which will include about 30,000 to 40,000 words of original material, under Creative Commons as well, and will probably try to promote the CC version more heavily.

"Because of the response to the first book," he says, "I go into the sequel with absolute certainty. Anything else that I write, in the future, whether I get paid for it or not, will be CC'd. Absolutely. It's a no-brainer."

Clare is also excited to be repeating the experiment: "We're publishing Tom's next book in August 2008, and he wants to do the same, so we'll definitely be doing it for him but I'd like to do it for other books as well."

Tom believes that Tim O'Reilly is right — obscurity really is more of a danger to him than piracy — and the CC editions, and building a good community, can combat that.

"You know, I wouldn't have bought Neil Gaiman's latest book if I didn't read his blog. I wouldn't have known about it for starters. I wouldn't have bought Doctorow's book if it wasn't for having read it first in Creative Commons."

Both Tom and Clare want to do more promotional work around the next book's CC edition,

Future of the publishing industry

Clare believes that the publishing industry is still struggling to come to terms with the way the internet is changing their business.

"The publishing industry is scrabbling around for a way to deal with it," she says, "but I think the best thing is to accept it, adapt to it, and find ways that you can exploit new media. That is obviously what a lot of publishers are doing, but we need to recognise the stress and put strategies in place to cope with it."

Tom definitely sees the publishing industry changing: "The pattern of selling books is going to change. You'll still get those big sellers, the Maeve Binchys and the JK Rowlings, but you're also going to get a shift towards this new model where people know you, or think they know you, and so they buy your books, partly because they enjoy your writing, partly because they want to reward you and partly because they've invested in you."

And Tom doesn't see himself, or Doctorow and Lessig, as special cases. Any author can do what Tom has done, but it does depend on what type of person you are. "If you're one of those big names who kind of secludes yourself away in a room and do a book, do another book, do another book, you know, have three or four books on the go at once, it's going to be hard because, as I say, it's moving towards that sense of community. And, you know, you look at the popularity of people who have made that move to blogging.


Clare agrees that any publisher could do the same as they did. "But most publishers will want to be sure that there was a real return before actually adopting this model. I'm quite happy to see it in a more notional, vague sense, in that I feel that there is general kind of interest and goodwill with it, whereas I think that perhaps a bigger publisher might take a slightly sterner view of it all."

Indeed, if every author were to release their book under Creative Commons, and every author kept a blog, the ability to build a community could become the difference between success and failure. As Tom puts it, "You'd better not be an arsehole. As we move more to turning to Google and stuff and thinking 'Oh, blimey.' You know, 'So and so wrote this, oh I'll read his book.' It's bound to become more and more important.

"Is Creative Commons a success because it's unusual? And if it was the same for everyone, would I have the problem of being just another book on the virtual shelf? I don't know. That's the question that's got to be asked. If Google had their way and all the texts are searchable, maybe it won't make a difference, because people will find what they need to find. It's like this singularity point, if everyone is Creative Commons-ing, what, what's next? That's a hard question to


But Clare doesn't think that mass CC publishing would be a problem until e-book technology advances: "You've got to be quite devoted to read something online. But I think that if everyone did it, as soon as the appropriate e-reader came along I think they'd quickly be getting back offline and being careful about what was made available. It would have to be managed quite carefully because that is when it would cannibalise your sales and affect your revenues."

And if all of The Friday Project's authors suddenly drank the Kool-aid? "I don't think it would have a negative effect on sales, and I think there would be a positive effect of bringing new people to the site. One of the issues that a publisher always has to address is the fact that people never come direct, or very rarely come direct, to a publisher to buy books. Yet direct sales are a very valuable source of revenue for a publisher, but anybody who wants to buy a book online goes to Amazon or Play, and the more ways you can think of to bring people to your site and to create some loyalty around your site, the better. If you've got people coming in to pick up downloads, even if some are in full and some are in part, if you've got a reason for people to keep coming back then hopefully the knock-on effect of that would be more direct sales. Simply, the more customers you've got visiting you directly, the better."

The future of the free culture model

While this is impossible to predict future technological developments that could destroy this business model, relying as it does on people both downloading and buying a physical product, the two main issues that Tom sees threatening this model are net neutrality and maybe e-book readers. Net neutrality has been more of an issue in the USA than in the UK, as big media and telecoms companies vied for control of distribution of content; if big media companies control the pipes then they also control the content that flows through them.

A more significant problem could be e-book readers, but Tom doesn't think that we are there yet.


Twenty years ago, who would thought I'd be carrying an iPhone around with me. You know, e-readers are still a bit clunky. I'm going to have a look at the new Sony one later today. But you can't roll it up, you can't throw it in your backpack, and not worry about sitting on it by mistake. As price falls, and they become more rugged, to be honest, as they become more book-like, the e-reader for me would be a book where you have paper pages that change.

"So you still flick through the pages. The pages are still pages that you can fold over. I'm terrible at dog-earing books, I'm a bad person. But that's a loved book to me. And until you can do that, and take it in the bath, and take it to the beach, and not worry about 'What if I get sand in it?' 'What if I get it wet?' 'What if I lose it'. If someone steals your book. I mean, how many times are books stolen? They're not really, are they? If someone steals your book, you say, three or four quid, bugger it, I'll buy it again. As opposed to MP3 players are getting stolen left, right, and centre."

Clare agrees that e-book readers aren't in the same league as MP3 players: "I don't know if you've seen the Amazon Kindle reader, but it looks like something out of the '70s. It will get better and better, there will be a version that is really usable, and then you might… everyone refers to the 'iPod moment' but I'm not sure if we'll see quite the same thing happen with books because they are already portable. It's very easy to stick a book in your bag, whereas it wasn't so easy to stick a CD and a player in your bag. So i'm not sure if the shift will be quite as huge as that, but I can see it coming in some form."


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