Printing from Periodicals Can Now Add Revenue Opportunities

August 20, 2009

Printing an article this afternoon from Canada’s The Globe and Mail, I encountered an unexpected print dialog box that I thought was pretty nifty.

globeprint1

Instead of just offering the standard print dialog box from the OS, and printing a copy to paper or PDF, suddenly there are additional options which may be handy for you, and can earn the publisher a little cash in exchange for the value you receive. But it doesn’t stop there. To get to the print option you click on the “Print or License” and see the two options

printorlicense

Licensing is where the real fun begins. The main dialog box offers these options:

licenseglobe

Print we’ve already seen. I don’t think that many folks would email an article to more than five people, and regardless, most just provide a link. But posting all or (more often) parts of articles happens probably several million times a day. Here are your options if you want to post the whole thing:

postarticle

As you’ll see here…

posthtml

…the pricing plan is based on how long you want to post it (non-profits are charged half the price).

If you choose PDF, you pay a little more but have another nifty feature available…

postpdf

…you can create a proof of the page and preview that. (By the way, the last two screen shots are partials. What they don’t show is a key feature: you can continue down the page, fill in the details of your order, pay by credit card and confirm the permissions immediately. A very smooth process!

Finally you reach “Other Services”:

otherservices

The interesting one is “Excerpt Article for Print” (note that it des not say “for Print or Online”.)

licenseexcerpt

Nifty little bit of technology once again: paste in the text you want to reprint, the words are counted, a price rendered and down the page you can enter your credit information and the deal is done! (And presumably the text to be quoted is also saved as part of the transaction, so that it can later be monitored.)

But something doesn’t quite add up here (apart from paying $11.20 for 32 words). I wonder why this applies only to print excerpting and not to online. I also wonder what happened to the Doctrine of Fair Use? Like everything related to copyright the doctrine is complex. The most important issue it covers is how much of original material can you use in another publication (song, movie, etc.) before you’re considered to have infringed copyright. The original article that I quote from in the screen shot above contains 1,463 words. I’m proposing to use 2% of them. Not a large percentage, but other factors weigh in in determining fair use. Nonetheless, I’d be interested to hear in the comments section below what people think about this part of the service.

The company providing this SaaS (Software as a Service) is iCopyright. I’m a big believer that a central tenet for all Web publishers must be to seek revenue from all available sources, and this simple service would be a real boon if it became a standard practice among periodical publishers. Lots are apparently using it, but I don’t run into it often.

I’m sufficiently impressed that I’ve written to Mike O’Donnell, the president and CEO of iCopyright (who provides a personal email address on the company’s “About Us” page — a class act), and requested an interview so that I can learn more about the company and its customers. Expect the results in a later blog entry.

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Giving Away Digital Books for Free

May 30, 2008

Credit where credit is due: I was first informed of this fascinating tale about the future of writing and book publishing from David Pogue’s always fun, provocative and illuminating weekly column in The New York Times. His May 22nd column provided his take on whether he should provide free downloads of his (many) books.

After a couple of bad experiences he’s now firmly against it, while admitting that “I realize that it puts me, rather awkwardly, on the same side of the piracy issue as the record companies and movie companies, who are suing teenagers for downloading songs, and of whom I’ve made endless fun.”

But a far more intriguing story is referenced in Pogue’s column: the story of author Steven Poole, who took a successful book, “Trigger Happy: The Inner Life of Videogames,” and posted it for download on his blog. The book was first published in 2000, to favorable reviews, and, according to Poole, continues to sell well. But last November, as a simple experiment, he offered Trigger Happy as a free download, under a Creatives Commons license, which meant, if not in legal terms, but in technical reality, “no strings attached.” He asked only that “if you like the book, you can leave a tip via PayPal,” and provided a link for PayPal donations. The total was a vanishingly minuscule fraction of what I earned from the book’s traditional publication.”

The results were, to say the least, disappointing from a financial perspective. As Poole reported in an April 2008 blog entry, “the proportion of [31,697] people who left a tip after downloading Trigger Happy was 1 in 1,750, or 0.057%” and as he comments later in the responses to his entry, “the average donation was a (very reasonable) couple of bucks. What I found most important here are the nearly 230 comments found in both the original blog entry offering the book, and in its follow-up. A few of the comments are of course inane, but the sum of the comments (with a generous series of responses from Poole) amounts to the most fascinating discussion I’ve yet encountered on how writing and publishing are faring in the ongoing struggle to find an effective new business model that will encourage book-length publications (rather than articles and blogs) to flourish in the age of the Internet.

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