Anansi Spaceworks
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Q:Why should I pay for "free" media? I thought it was for free?
A:The "Free" in "Free Film", "Free Culture", and "Free Software" means "free of restrictions" -- specifically that these works are under free and open source public licenses (ours are typically under some version of the "Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike" license for books and media or GNU General Public License" for software).
That actually makes them MORE valuable, not less. You don't need a separate license for each "seat" of software. You don't need a specially-licensed version of a film to show it in a classroom (or a theater, for that matter).
Q:What do I get for my money?
  • A fair relationship with creators who are making these works for you
  • Peace of mind, that with income, they can keep making more of them
  • The "official", high-quality version of the work that we've approved
  • Solid copies (for the non-digital editions)
  • A better world, in which value in intellectual works is not just a matter of extortion under legal threat, but a respectful transaction of value
Q:But I get it for free online!
A:Yes, but then we don't make any money, can't pay our bills, and soon there is no more of the art.
Q:But how will artists survive if they don't restrict their works from copying!
Eunice: So sad., Eunice: Someone needs to figure out a way for people like you to make money, Mimi: (Holds out hand, poignantly)
Mimi & Eunice, by Nina Paley
Q:Is this sustainable?
A:I don't know. I would like to think so. I'm betting on what imagine human nature to be. I could be wrong. It's possible that people really are selfish automatons that only respond to violence as conventional economics models them. Or it could be that we are cooperative creatures by nature and feel better about paying for what other people do for us. I think most people want artists to be paid for their work when they do something they like, and what people mostly resent about buying art is all the inefficiency introduced by middlemen. That when you haggle over the price of a book, you are not doing so because you want to take money away from the writer, but because you want to keep the publisher and retailer from overcharging you. But if you buy directly from the artist - if they are the publisher and retailer, that you are more likely to trust he transaction is fair compensation to the artist.
But, as a scientist (and an entrepreneur), I know only one way to really be sure of the answer: try it. And that experiment is ongoing.
Q:How much actually goes to the creators?
A:It varies, depending on the product. The prices you see on the books typically reflect a markup that gives us about $5 from each sale. The rest goes into costs (because it does actually cost money to manufacture a book and even ebooks require internet hosting costs to be managed). Electronic media, such as CDs and DVDs have a slightly higher profit margin, since producing them is cheaper (per unit). It is much better for us if you buy directly from the links here than if you buy through a retailer such as Amazon, which typically buys at a discount and then takes half of what you pay them - we list works on such sites primarily for exposure and findability. That's also why some products are marked down lower here: you aren't paying Amazon.