Fortuitously the other day I discovered a real-world example of rational self-interest --- a scarce commodity these days! --- embodied in the "Baen Free Library" [1]. It offers a variety of science fiction stories published by Baen Books, not in strip-tease glimpses but as full texts, easy to download in a variety of formats, with helpful background commentary and supplemental material. And it's not a flash-in-the-pan fuzzy-minded potlatch experiment. The BFL has been in operation since late 2000, in a small and healthy way.

"First Librarian" (an sf in-joke) Eric Flint offers (in his essay "Building the Baen Free Library; or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Internet" [2] hard-headed quantitative evidence of the success of the BFL. Book sales go up, measurably, as people sample an underappreciated writer's works and decide to buy more. Readers get a chance to stretch their wings and fly beyond the narrow nest of celebrity best-sellers.

And in addition to the simple moneymaking rationale for turning the usual mine!-mine!-mine! intellectual property selfishness on its head, Eric Flint concludes his commentary by suggesting an even better reason to share:

I personally believe it also places such authors on the side of the angels in this dispute. For me, at least, this side of the matter is even more important than the practical side. It grates me to see the way powerful corporate interests have been steadily twisting the copyright laws and encroaching on personal liberties in order to shore up their profit margins, all the more so when their profit problems are a result of their own stupidity and short-sighted greed in the first place.

It's a start at taking the conflict out of the writer-publisher-reader triangle ...

(see also TradingInGhosts (1 Oct 1999), PublicDomain (13 Feb 2003), MacaulayOnCopyright (27 Jan 2004), ...)

TopicSociety - TopicLiterature - TopicLibraries - 2003-05-29

(correlates: MacaulayOnCopyright, DiplomatAtArms, DarrenNeimke, ...)