Today begins an auspicious new day for Threat Quality Press, as we begin publishing the first volume of Sword of Savonarola, by Chris Braak. Rather than an epic series of stand-alone novels that, when strung together, constitute a very long story, Sword of Savonarola is one very long story that is conveniently divided into seven different books.
The first book is The Man with the Red Right Hand. Chapter One can be found here. New chapters will post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday through the end of December. However, at ANY TIME you will be able to purchase the entire book from Amazon in ELECTRONIC FORM:
So. If you’re patient, you can read the whole thing for free. If you’re excited about it, and you’ve got a spare three dollars, you can read the whole thing at once. As you can see, we’re trying something a little different with this, and if you are interested, we’re going to explain the theory here.
Essentially, the argument is this: people don’t actually pay money to own objects, we pay money to have access to objects. In the past, when all objects were actual literal things that you could punch or drop in a gutter, owning a thing and having access to a thing were concomitant. Moreover, it was fairly easy to restrict access to the thing if it was real: you could put a fence around it, or bury it in a hole, or just keep a close eye out and shoot whoever came near it.
But now we live in a world of infinitely replicable object facsimiles, and they’re revealing what may, in fact, have always been true: you don’t actually need the thing to use it, you just need access. It’s true that we can look at intellectual property as being a completely different kind of property, but some things — like ZipCar, for instance — actually make it clear that the essential principle is the same, and that the characteristic that divides IP from RP (real property) is that “realness” automatically restricts access. So, in other words, the rules are for the digital economy, and the real economy is a subset of that digital economy dealing with physical junk.
What this means is that you can recontextualize what it means to sell an object. For digital objects, we can’t really say, “how many of these things are there” (supply) and compare it to “how many do people want to buy” (demand) because 1) there’s an infinite supply of them, and 2) you only need to buy one in order to satisfy and infinite demand.
Instead, if we look at access as the defining principle of economics, we can say, “how inconvenient is it to get this” and compare it with, “how interested are people in getting it.” The dollar amount is, theoretically, just less than the inconvenience a person is willing to put up with in order to happily read the whole thing.
So, sure, a person COULD read all of The Man with the Red Right Hand online, for free, without paying a cent. But there are inconveniences: they’ll have to wait for new chapters to post. The screen may be less than ideal. You’ve got to click on a bunch of links to get to the next chapter. You can lose your place if you miss a couple days, and then you’ll have to find it again. Sure, there’s are all minor inconveniences, but the cost to obviate them is minor.
The question is not, “do you think this book is worth three dollars,” the question is, “is reading this book conveniently worth three dollars”.
The issue with torrents is something similar — there are some (minor, I know) inconveniences associated with torrenting a book and reading it for free, which OF COURSE you can do. You can do that, and it’s impossible for Threat Quality or anyone else to stop you. Our only real option is to say, “Look, isn’t it worth three bucks to not have to do that?”
(Obviously, you can do the same thing with real objects, too, in a way that makes a certain kind of sense: when we talk about the price of a car, what we’re really talking about is how much you need a car compared to how inconvenient it is to steal it. Sure, the fact of a car’s realness means it’s extremely hard to steal, and that means that you can force a person to spend a lot of money for a whole car, because it’s easy to control their access to it — but oh, look, oops! Someone thought of a way to conveniently provide just the amount of car that you need, circumventing the inconvenience-advantage that a car’s realness provided!)
Anyway, whether or not $2.99 is the right cost for the relative convenience remains to be seen. I guess we’ll all find out.
EVERYTHING IS VERY EXCITING, THIS IS THE FUTURE!