What Publishers Can Learn From Radiohead

From Ed Champion, Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want-for-this-download experiment paid off…approximately $2.7 million. All the money goes to the band because they eliminated the middleman. Surprised? The public opted to pay $2.7 million for this music. Granted, Radiohead is a very famous and well established band with a loyal fan base who wants to see them make money. From the perspective of book publishing, this experiment teaches us a few things about using the internet to distribute content.

Not everyone who uses the Internet wants to steal things. Everyone could have downloaded Radiohead’s new album for free, but they didn’t. There are probably people who didn’t pay, and there are more people who stole the music from someone else. But the fact remains that when faced with the choice, enough people paid to make this experiment successful. Take iTunes. People could just as easily search peer-to-peer networks for free music. Instead, enough people go to iTunes and pay for their music and generate enough money to keep iTunes not only alive but robust and flourishing.

A loyal fan base wants to pay for things. All those Radiohead fans care about the band and care that it makes enough money to continue making music. Readers care about their authors and don’t want to see them starve. A reader could go to the library and read a book for free, but enough people buy the book to make publishing a worthwhile business.

The Internet is clearly no different. If you have a good website that is convenient and user-friendly, people will pay. They don’t want to scour the ends of the Internet for a free e-book. They want to go to a website, find the book, and buy it. Ease, convenience, and connectivity are what have brought consumers online. I don’t believe e-book piracy is going to bring book publishing to its knees. Publishers should start trusting their readers.


Author: Hannah Johnson

When I first came to New York City, I almost ran over Liza Minelli with my suitcase. Then I got a job in book publishing.

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