Figuring out What a 21st Century Book Can Be: When an Author's Insistence on Publishing under a Creative Commons License Met Resistance from Book Publishers, He Decided to Self-Publish His Book with Lulu

By Gillmor, Dan | Nieman Reports, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Figuring out What a 21st Century Book Can Be: When an Author's Insistence on Publishing under a Creative Commons License Met Resistance from Book Publishers, He Decided to Self-Publish His Book with Lulu


Gillmor, Dan, Nieman Reports


I left the traditional newspaper world almost six years ago. Now I've left the traditional book publishing world, too. The publisher of my new book and website, Mediactive, is me. With the help of a company called Lulu, an enterprise that understands the changes taking place in the publishing world, I'm moving beyond traditional boundaries to figure out what a book is in this digital age.

The publisher that brought out my book, "We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People," a few years ago was planning to publish "Mediactive," a user's guide to democratized media. Early this year we parted company, and at that point my literary agent, David Miller, started looking for a new publisher. He told me that the potential field would be limited because I had a non-negotiable requirement: This book, like my first one, had to be published under a Creative Commons license that I use for my work. Under the license I've chosen for this project, anyone can make copies of the work for noncommercial use, but if they create derivative works--also only for noncommercial purposes--those works must be made available a) with credit to me and b) under the same license.

My primary goal in using this system is simple: to spread the ideas. There is no better way to achieve this than by offering the book for free downloading and remixing. The financial principle behind the Creative Commons license I'm using is also simple: While I want my work to get the widest possible distribution, if anyone is going to make money on it I'd like that to be me and the people who have worked with me on it.

It's a rare commercial publisher that would agree to such stipulations. The publishing industry is understandably skeptical, and we're in the early days of understanding the dynamics of what happens when books are published in this way. Yet almost a decade after Creative Commons was founded, a recent small study of nonfiction book sales found some evidence to support making books freely available. Writing in the Journal of Electronic Publishing, John Hilton III and David Wiley asked "What happens to book sales if digital versions are given away?" The data made them "believe that free digital book distribution tends to increase print sales," but they also cautioned "this is not a universal law."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

My own experience falls solidly on the side of publishing books this way. Miller explained to editors at publishing houses that the main reason I'm still getting royalty checks for "We the Media," which was published in 2004, is that the book has been available as a free download since the day it went into bookstores. This is how word about it spreads. Had we not published it in this way, I believe the book would have sunk without a trace--especially given the indifference shown to it by American newspapers and magazines in the weeks and months immediately following publication.

Some editors took the "Mediactive" proposal to their in-house committees that decide whether to buy a book. Several asked me to write what amounted to a different book, which I wasn't willing to do, in part because the one I was writing was almost finished. And the few publishers that did understand the value of Creative Commons didn't want to publish my book. One rejection was almost amusing; this editor told my agent that his company's publicity and marketing people "felt that the major media would avoid the book because of the criticism of their techniques."

Another major New York publisher--a nearly ideal fit in any number of ways--did offer us a deal. But it came unraveled when the publisher flatly refused to agree to the Creative Commons license--even after we'd offered to drop the advance to zero dollars. With that, our search for a publisher ended. If a principle has meaning, then it meant sticking to it even when I felt tempted not to.

I'm convinced that publishers who aren't willing to head down the Creative Commons path today will eventually do so. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Figuring out What a 21st Century Book Can Be: When an Author's Insistence on Publishing under a Creative Commons License Met Resistance from Book Publishers, He Decided to Self-Publish His Book with Lulu
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.