18 Aug 2014

Some thoughts on giving away my book

Downloads surged on 14 Aug
"Why didn't I do this earlier?"

Well, it took me four months of selling at $5 before I stood back to rethink my objectives. After all, I've often said that I want to maximize people's exposure to "aguanomic" ideas, but that goal was blocked by concerns that (a) people value stuff they pay for and (b) my work deserves a non-zero price.

It turns out that those concerns were insignificant compared to the price barrier -- not because my work is not valuable but because a price barrier doesn't work in a world of free ideas.1

Indeed, people are much more likely to lack attention than money these days, so I should have instead decided to (a) put my ideas into a concise form, so people do not "waste their time" to read them2 and (b) give away the book so people do not have to worry about "wasting their money" when exploring it.3

So now I've caught up to reality, and it's much easier to work with.

I also realized, as a real open access author, that it's much easier to just send a link to people than ask them for their name and email. The only thing I got out of registration was an email list and download count, but the former betrayed the real meaning of free,4 and the latter doesn't really mean anything.

Indeed, what is the difference between knowing that 923 people have the book or that 900+ people have it?5 All I care about is that people can use these ideas to accomplish change, and there's no linear relationship between sales and change. You need to get the right ideas to the right people, and that often depends more on luck or circumstances than marketing or revenues.

That's why I'm happy to say that at least 900 people have downloaded the book in the past few days. That's triple the number who bought copies in the past four months. It seems that many people want to understand water scarcity, but few people have an idea of the value of that knowledge. Perhaps reading will help them get a better idea.

Bottom Line: My book is free, but your time is not. Check it out, then tell me if it helps you understand water issues and help your community.

  1. As in speech, i.e., "free beer" worries blocked free speech.
  2. Also the reason many of my posts end with a "Bottom Line."
  3. Yes, it's ironic that there will be no shortage of a "free" book that discusses how we get shortages of "free" water. Read pages 7-8 to understand how my PDF can be managed as a public good while private water cannot :)
  4. According to Maimonides's rubric of charity giving, I went from Level 5 generosity (giver and givee know each other) to Level 4 (I do not know who has the PDF). I can't really get to Level 2 (since it's clear that I'm giving my book to everyone), but perhaps I will accomplish Level 1 giving, by helping others to learn and help themselves (hear that, Vegas?)
  5. The first 100 downloads maxed out my PDF-provider. Then I posted the PDF on my main web-server for people to download (see figure). Based on above-trend bandwidth use, I estimate ~800 downloads on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. These data omit forwarded copies of the PDF, etc.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for making the book available for free. I'm very interested in reading it and now I have something new to read on the bus ride to work.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir, i am unable to find the boook (water scarcity) in the link provided on main page.

David Zetland said...

Fixed the link to here: http://livingwithwaterscarcity.com/LwWS_Free.pdf

Anonymous said...

Thanks for making your book free! My professor is having us read this for a water supply and treatment class. It's refreshing to have a book I don't have to spend money on this semester. I look forward to reading it!

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