inspiration sharing

3 Ways to Share

I came across these three ways to share via Russell Davis who attributes them to Clay Shirky.

Sharing Goods – the hardest to do, because if you give a physical good you no longer have it, you’re deprived of it.

Sharing Services – like giving helping someone across the road – you don’t lose out on physical stuff but it’s an inconvenience.

Sharing Information – like giving someone directions – you don’t lose stuff, it doesn’t take much time, no inconvenience.

Also interesting are Russell’s further thoughts on this where he discusses the relative value of mixtapes vs playlists and how the tangibility of mixtapes actually increases their value.

I find this an incredibly useful way to think about sharing in relation to bookleteer. Give away a printed eBook or StoryCube and you lose that object – but the person you give it to feels valued as a result of that exchange. Email someone an eBook or StoryCube and you don’t lose anything except the time it takes to write the email – but the value may be diluted as a result. Sometimes you won’t have a choice about which way you distribute your eBooks (see A Little Something About Me for one example of why this might be) but when you do the question to ask might be – how do you want the recipient of your eBook to feel..?

4 replies on “3 Ways to Share”

Over the last 10 years that we’ve been publishing Diffusion eBooks, one of the most common responses has been people telling us how they share them with others. I am regularly told by different people how they like to hand make specific books to give to close friends, but that they email the PDFs (or sometimes just the links) to others not so close.

I think this offers some interesting insight into the granularity of our relationship to people and things; that the transfer of a physical object still conveys more depth, more tangibility to a relationship (perhaps for historical reasons) whilst the sending of digital files or links seems more informational. This seems to echo the experience of sharing mixtapes, possibly due their relative hand-madeness too.

What’s interesting, I think, with Diffusion eBooks is the ability for people to hand make them as many times as they like and give them away without losing access to the books themselves. That’s something quite different from buying and giving away traditional mass-produced goods (like books) and suggests some interesting links to emerging technologies like fablabs and rapid prototyping.

In a sense all this is about value not cost. To hand make and share an item conveys more value in the exchange because the goods shared have been personally made rather than mass-produced and bought. The ‘cost’ of sharing such items is the time invested in the making rather than monetary exchange – often outweighed by the response from the recipient and the cementing of the relationship that such a gift can imply.

In thinking about why we share things, what it is that drives us to do so, it is value and values that underpin our actions. Sharing with others forms a key part of our ‘values’, or the principles by which we choose to live our lives; we also appreciate the value created by the act itself – the pleasure taken in how much the recipient values the gift, and the personal value (goodwill, kudos, sense of well-being etc) accrued in the making of the gift.

The French writer Georges Bataille was one of the first to consider the complexities of gift relationships and value in the context of an understanding of ‘economy’ that encompasses more than just monetary value (cf. his book The Accursed Share). Bataille believed that abundance and not scarcity was at the root of how humans value exchange – its is not hard to see how the industrial revolution and consumerism have shifted the general perception of value to imply cheapness of cost as giving the highest value. The abundance of sharing that digital technologies offer is throwing this perception into confusion as our society grapples with the challenge of a monetary economy based on scarcity of goods running headlong into ‘goods’ which can be replicated infinitely at almost no cost in material/monetary terms. How now should we value things if the goods themselves no longer have a value based on their limited availability or material cost? The answer, I believe, is in shifting our system of values, and how we value things, to one based not on the acts of consumption but in the reasons why we make things.

In a time when we are told that cuts must be made across every aspect of our society because the cost of our way of life is too high to sustain given our national debt, we surely need to think carefully, and closely at what we really value. Do we invest our energies, creativity and hope in a bankrupt model of consumerism and exploiting scarcity, or can we find alternatives that sidestep this top-down, centre-to-the-margin model for one that reflects the dynamism of being human?

In some small way it is my hope that bookleteer, the Diffusion eBooks and StoryCubes can contribute to an economy of sharing that consistently evades the inbuilt inequalities of scarcity and consumerism by providing a platform for people to share what they value with others outside of and beyond the barriers to entry that persist in the traditional market places of publishing.

It´s surprising that the discussion about this subject is almost inexistent.

The secondhand market has always been an important part of the book trade, and suddenly it is at risk of disappearing in the digital enviroment, to the detriment of the readers. But it has not to be that way mandatorily.

First, there’s a distinction that has to be made: digital “products”, digital books in this case, are no objects (physical nor “virtual”) but information “packages”, so they cannot be considered as “used” after being read, but they definitively can be considered as “second hand” products if transferred from user to user -just like a physical book that, even if sealed and not read, is sold or passed by the original buyer (costumer/potential reader) to another person.

Now, a copy of an ebook is another thing. (The book is specifically propitious to copy, since virtuality is part of its nature. I can copy a novel by hand, word by word, and the result will be the same novel, no less, no more.I can copy a PDF book in RTF format, and the textuality at least will be the same, and the reading experience will be the same. Xerox copies are of common use since decades ago).

Just like the music industry years ago, the editorial industry is suffering a panic attack that the shift to a digital enviroment entails. “Will the readers share their readings without benefit to us?” “will the writer become his own publisher without benefit to us?” Yes, of course, this is happening, and will continue to happen no matter what efforts are made by the industry to prevent it. People will copy cultural goods whenever is cheaper and faster and better copying them than buying it.

Why, whitout the print, store and delivery costs, is an ebook almost equal in price than a physical book? Why, being technologically easier to share it is so difficult legally? Because, when in pannic, persons and companies act stupidly. They are mistaking the reader for an enemy, when he’s not. He´s a costumer (that is to say, a kind of partner), a friend, but not a silly one. He will go where he can find the best choice, the best buy, and if he can get the same for free, he will go for it. Because, as the song goes, “information want to be free”.

The current regulations prevent the existence of second hand ebooks, not only by sale/purchase, but by loan or donation also. It is not forbidden (yet) but is, indeed, constrained. If a physical book can be read by an unlimited number of “users”, due to technical and legal (that are not technological or ethical) limitations, an ebook cannot. So, the mere idea of secondhand books is quashed by design.

As a margin note: what about libaries (public, semi-public and private)? There are now experiments (limited in scope an reach) that, despite their shyness, demonstrates that a demand niche exists, more social that commercial.

Books, always, have been read mainly when access is provided. What I mean is: 1) the purchase of a book, is only one -and never the principal- in many ways to “get” a book. And it will continue this way. and 2) just as the gutemberg press provoked at its time a social change that went far further that a simply “printing and reading” revolution, the digital publishing can, and will, and has already spark cultural shifts that will develop with or without the involvement of the editorial industry.

Music and media industries has focused their efforts in prosecution and “re-education” of the public to “teach” them (by exemplary lessons) that sharing is a crime. But they´ll never succeed because the people know that it is a crime without victims (except, of course, of the copyright holders), and there is no real harm nor guilt in that.

Editorial industry will do wrong following the steps of music and media industry (altought we all know they are part of the same conglomerates). Among other reasons, because it has few aggregate bussines opportunities: no live concerts, no merchandising, no franchises.

The industry, in order to survive, has to adapt itself to the new realities, instead of trying to adapt the new realities to their interests. A new model of businnes is needed, and it has to include -technically and comercially- the possibility of re-circulation. Is the reader who has the power to invent it and demand it.

Publishing companies can ride the wave or stay at the shore.

Comments are closed.