An experiment in generosity

February 29, 2008

RamsayphEvery week I’m in London I have lunch at a great Vietnamese restaurant with my author friend Ramsay Wood, followed by a multi-hour walk. This past week I pitched Ramsay on my idea for a “gift economy” experiment in book publishing.

I’ve been thinking hard about how BookMooch might be able to help authors.

Some background:

The current publishing industry is based on a centralized model, where books are sent from central sources, and once read, the publisher hopes you’ll permanently store the book, not share it, or at least throw in the trash. Publishers don’t profit when books are passed along to your friends, or resold through used book stores. There is an argument to be made that used book sales, and word-of-mouth book-trading increases demand for (some) titles, but it’s not an obvious point.

Book-sharing, on the other hand, encourages you to read a book and then pass it on, and never to destroy a book. The same book may be read by 10 people, and many of those people would never have considered the book if it weren’t available for the low price and often the recommendations of friends and people whose taste you share helps create demand as well.

So here is the experiment…

Many years ago, Ramsay wrote a book of fables, in which cats are the main characters. The book was beautifully illustrated (the cover is on the right). That book is now out of print, and Ramsay holds the copyright to the text.

Ramsay and I are thinking about paying to self-publish a new edition of the book, and make it available for free on BookMooch. Books would be printed “on demand” as mooch requests come in, and we’d pay the postage and printing costs. I’m thinking about using, as they produce photo-book quality print-on-demand books, though the price is a bit steep at $21 a book (plus postage, comes to about $24 a book).

Here’s the “experiment in generosity” part:

  • if you enjoy the book, and can afford it, please tip the author (with paypal).
  • you choose the amount to tip, with a suggestion of $10 (remember, it cost $24 to print and ship)
  • you list the book on BookMooch and pass it on to someone else
  • if you want to keep the book, we ask that you tip at least the cost of the printing for the book.
  • if the book wasn’t that exciting to you, or you simply can’t afford to tip, no problem, but do pass the book onto someone else via BookMooch
  • each subsequent moocher of the book is asked to tip the author

The questions I’d like answered with this experiment are:

  • can an author afford to self-publish and give away books, and make back the investment through volunteered tips?
  • Can peer-to-peer book swapping get a lot more people to read and enjoy a book?
  • Is there more economic value in the life-after-the-first-sale of a book
  • Is this a way BookMooch could help authors?

What do you think of this idea?

85 Responses to “An experiment in generosity”

  1. AliaG said

    Sounds very cool; please keep us updated!

  2. I think it’s a cool idea. Makes me think of a certain Radiohead, in fact…

    I’m eager to see how this turns out.

  3. Erin said

    I think this s a geat idea- and sounds like an absolutely wonderful book! But I would want to pay the full tipping amount of $24 and keep this book! Actually, I would probably buy four, one for me to keep and two to give away as Christmas presents (to people not on BookMooch). Please keep us updated πŸ™‚

  4. Dan said

    >> can an author afford to self-publish and give away books, and make back the investment through volunteered tips?

    One of my favorite things about BookMooch is the low cost per book. I’ll mooch things on BookMooch I’d never buy because I don’t lose much if I don’t like it. And book condition only matters if I’m collecting–mostly I just want to read it. What I’m getting at is that I would be more likely to participate if all the prices you mentioned were halved. Perhaps two options for the printing? 1) a simpler, cheaper “manuscript” and 2) a higher-quality full-color print. Perhaps the high quality is only necessary for books with color illustrations? Most of my mooches are dog-eared paperbacks. Finding the price point is tricky, but I would be willing to tip an author for a good read. I think the success of the iTunes music store shows that there is a price point that most people will accept, but its probably a lot lower than what the content creators want. They’ll have to make it up in volume.

    >> Can peer-to-peer book swapping get a lot more people to read and enjoy a book?

    As for getting the word out, perhaps a section within BookMooch where the published-on-demand “exclusive to BookMooch” can be rated by the readers would help bubble up great books?

  5. 1MstHveBooks said

    What an interesting idea. I want one.

  6. Amanda said

    I’m wondering if the book is aimed at children. If so, you may find that the book doesn’t recirculate as soon as you might hope. I find that my children, and my nieces/nephews/friends all tend to be unwilling to part with their favorite books (until they deem themselves too mature or the parent can slip it off the bookcase on the sly to make room for a new one). πŸ™‚ Amanda

  7. Denise said

    How would you decide who gets the first mooch? The only way I see it working is if you had a very limited supply so as not to flood the market and squash demand. I would definitely mooch the book (I have 4 cats — LOVE’EM). I think it’s a great idea! It’s also a fabulous opportunity for undiscovered authors to get their works out there.

  8. Tim Harris said

    Sounds like a cool idea. I have one suggestion and one thought. My suggestion would be to make sure the book is printed with a special back of front cover which lets people know it was a BookMooch book and where to go to tip. My thought was that this sort of thing might affect the “value” of a BookMooch point (and you might get the tax man coming after you). What would the author do with their mooch points?

  9. Cut the cost of printing and postage. If a new author (or revisiting an old author) wants to get some “ReadTime” then try your experiment with an ebook. Same as itunes only with books. Then you can set up a site where you will take preorders from the people who want an actual copy. Once you have enough preorders then you could decide if it’s economically feasible to attempt printing. Just a thought . . .

  10. Greg said

    Have you considered companies other than such as

  11. Krystal said

    I understand the concern to authors, as I am currently writing my first book. I think what needs to be pondered here is the fact that book swapping is not the only way people get books. Many get them through ebay or yard sales, etc. So what I am saying is how is bookmooch being unfair to an author when these other ways aren’t either? I think that if you write multiple books, maybe a series or something, then book swapping actually generates sales. As mentioned, many will mooch a book since the don’t have to pay for it. So say someone mooches the first book. Well there are some limitations in swapping, so say they can’t find it to swap, so they go online and buy it. Your point is valid though. But what about those who use bookmooch due to not having that kind of money to spend on books? It’s a problem I understand and I am looking forward to seeing other peoples ideas and points!

  12. Megan said

    Sounds like a pretty neat book! I know I’d tip for it, and pass it along to a lot of people I know who would be interested!

  13. Kathleen said

    E-book for modest fee would interest me, if I enjoyed would consider purchase commercial print.
    Would have absolutely no problem recommending commercial product purchase also, if I enjoyed. K

  14. Cali said

    In the town of Mendocino on a street that faces the Pacific Ocean is what is called The Community Box. People put what they no longer have use for in the box for anyone they think will. No money is exchanged, but sharing is. The idea that you are presenting here is just as inspiring, I hope you do it, and I also hope that you are supported in doing all the other things you have thought of, but have yet to do. I would rather hold a book in my hands than read from a machine, I would rather pay to support an author directly than to pay a publisher, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to keep intelligent writing fluent, and read. Thank you. Sincerely, Cali

  15. Danielle said

    I am not personally interested in this book, but the idea is interesting.

    Is the intention of the author to eventually make money off the book as a copy is passed from person to person generating multiple tips? I think that would be very closely tied to how well people like the book.

  16. Monica said

    I don’t think I’d be able to participate in this because I don’t have a pay-pal account. Also, how would you tell moochers that they need to donate? It might put them off mooching the book.

  17. susan bondesen said

    I love this idea. Libraries have been closed in our county and many of us are thinking ‘outside the box’ as to how we now get our books. Bookmooch has been a Godsend as I cannot afford to purchase every book I wish to read. I would tip for this book and possibly pay full price (I am a cat lover and the front illustration is wonderful)

  18. P R-Riggs said

    I appreciate the generosity that prompted this suggestion, but I think there could be problems of scale. If you do this for one book, it’s a unique event, and you will find BookMooch members willing to try it as an extension of their support for the site. But even with an involved, if not captive, audience I wonder if you won’t run into competition from conventionally published materials pretty soon. I suspect that because of the diversity of BookMooch’s members, even those folks who read widely across several genres will have a limited response to an unknown book. I get the impression that most folks (this is admittedly based on my subjective experience), get interested in books because of their existing reviews, buzz, predecessors by the same author, and even availability. As a practical question, how would the initial interest be generated? By a third party review? And if you started to have publication on spec in larger numbers, what sort of browsing assistance could you add to help BookMooch members navigate to books/authors they might potentially enjoy? The categories of genres and subject matters supplied by Amazon that are in use by BookMooch right now are, no offense, laughable, even as admitted by dedicated members. Even the “Reccomended” field of BookMooch’s links for books gets arbitrary (for example, look at reccomendations listed with Shelby Steele’s “The Content of our Character”), although Mikko Saari’s program on MoochWiki did a little better for me, personally. Could there be a meta-review/browser put into play at the same time, perhaps as a wiki, that would have a broader data base of individuals’ input? (Keeping in mind the fate of the TBR Club). Another thought, if BookMooch members, were willing, could Mikko Saari’s Reccomendation program generate a place for these authors and their specializations, prior to publication, for which members could opt into? I am not trying to be pessimistic, and I hope you won’t take these comments as an attempt to discourage you. Best wishes, Peg

  19. Elle said

    I love the idea and will definitely participate with paying the full printing price for this one.

    The cover illustration is gorgeous. Please tell us who the illustrator is and does anything go to him/her. I think it should for books that are illustrated throughout. AND an important point: you say Mr. Wood holds the copyright for the text. Be sure you are not infringing on the copyrights of the illustrator, who may hold the rights to the paintings.

  20. Michael Robinson said

    I think this is a potential response to the current publishing industries’ willingness to move books out of print relatively quickly to maximize profits.
    I agree with the concern about “buzz” selling books mentioned above and I can only suggest a section with cover pictures, descriptions, “look inside” features, similiar to what Amazon has. People would find the book during a directed search or while browsing idly.
    I would suggest a simple economic analysis to help you make your decision, as well. First with ballpark estimates, and then, should you choose to proceed, analysis on an ongoing basis with real figures once you start to receive them.

  21. Lisa Clark said

    I think this sounds like a great experiment. I find most of my reccomendations for books online via other readers and not publishers or newspapers. Word of mouth can be great. I think this would be a valuable experiment for your friend and for other authors.

  22. Denise said

    This seems worth a try certainly.

    One probably minor drawback is there are those of us who would not be able to tip an author because we do not give credit card or other financial information on the internet even if we can afford it, so we would not participate, just as the people who could not afford it. Just a thought.

  23. Cali said it perfectly –

    I would rather hold a book in my hands than read from a machine, I would rather pay to support an author directly than to pay a publisher, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to keep intelligent writing fluent, and read. Thank you. Sincerely, Cali

    I am in total agreement with her thoughts on this idea.

  24. booknutzz said

    Love this idea. I often would like to get an out of print book and would be willing to get it directly from the author thru a download, but this idea is great. I just like to read and would like to be able to get more of these author owned out of print books even if I had to print them myself.

  25. Alasdair Trotter said

    Why not create an auction-style system, in which rather than requiring an individual to tip $10 or even $24, the user can simply ‘bid’ the amount that they would be willing to pay in order to have the opportunity to read the book.

    The challenge then is to simply aggregate the bids, perhaps pooling people (in order of their bid size) into groups by state, city, country or such, and to each group – sending the book to the highest bidder within that group. Each person in the group then has the responsibility to pass the book onto the next person in the group once they’ve finished with it.

    Bookmooch could play a role like a library – by providing a (dis)incentive or a regular inventive to pass on the book around the group – perhaps by registering which ‘book groups’ each user belongs to, and docking points if the book is kept longer than (say) a month before it is passed on to the next person in the group.

    Sure – it will rely on trust to an extent, but perhaps one might only be eligible once you have (say) 10 points, such that you have something to lose…

  26. Fascinating idea, though 10 sounds high. But – if you’re essentially doing print on demand, why not do it as an ebook file? Bits are a lot easier to move than atoms.

  27. Amanda said

    I would be into it. A bunch of cat fables? I already know a couple people besides myself who would read the book.

  28. john said

    Really exciting as its looking to challenge current economics of book distribution. Akin to thinking in the music industry in which the music is “free” as a down load but the profit is made through concerts and spinoffs. And the free down load is part of your marketing

    Using this model the. “free” reprint should as plain as possible but the price could rise in line with the quality of the product and paid for theatre readings with top drawer authors and support authors!

  29. Excellent experiment.

    My 2c:

    Consider putting a cap on the number of books you make available initially directly from the author to encourage mooching within the community and to reduce your printing costs.

    Later on you can make new copies available from the author only when they are not available in good quality from other people’s inventories.


  30. Cynthia said

    The writer part of me likes this idea. The reader part of me doesn’t want to pay $24 for a book, which is why I’m here in the first place. There are a few authors that I will save up for and pounce on their books the minute they come out, but even those books are discounted at the big chains and discounted even more at the warehouse stores.

    The thing I love most about BookMooch is the simplicity of it – no huge lists of rules, fees, etc. Is this becoming e-bay? I hope not.

  31. Katie said

    Count me in!!! This will make a lovely gift to a couple of people I know, cat lovers like myself…..

  32. Babaloo said

    That’s a very interesting idea. I’d love to see how this experiment goes. I’m very much for trying this, it will be very interesting to see how much people tip. I think people will tip generously if they like the book, so the money that comes in will also be some sort of feedback on the book itself. If you buy a book in a store you pay the same price, whether you end up liking the book or not. And the author only gets feedback from the sales figures.
    Count me in!

  33. Jeremy said

    Two things: (1) I can buy a paperback from the store for $8.00 so I wouldn’t consider $10.00. (2) Like others who responded, I use bookmooch because I don’t want to spend $8 on a book so $10 is definitely out.

    By using a “pass it around” approach you are attempting to replace a high margin-low volume approach with a low-margin, high-volume approach. Low margin should equal low cost. Your initial printing costs may be too high to make this feasible.

  34. chunnie said

    The idea seems a good one. I for one would be interested in reading the book, but not having a paypal account to tip the author I wouldn’t want to participate just in case I enjoy the book so much that I am reluctant to part with it and/or would prefer to pass it onto a friend who isn’t a bookmooch member.

    The idea of releasing them back onto bookmooch after reading them is a good idea in theory, but would it work? How many people would be willing to mooch a second-hand copy if they know they can mooch a fresh copy that has been printed for them on demand? Also, I may be willing to mooch a “freshly printed” copy of this book and tip the author $10 if I could, but I would I would not wish to mooch a second-hand copy of this book only to find that I am expected to pay $10 for it if I want to keep it. I would much prefer to spend that money on a brand-new book.

  35. DubaiReader said

    Sounds interesting in theory, but I wouldn’t mooch a book I had no info on.
    I just searched and couldn’t even find out if this was a children’s book or not.
    However I’m certainly up for anything that helps get new authors recognised – the monopoly by the big publishers is frightening.

  36. Mary Anne said

    Interesting idea for an experiment. I found many of the concerns expressed valid, though. Another I would add (I don’t think this was mentioned) is that many of us who mooch books are quite patient in waiting for a book–I wonder how that willingness to wait would impact initial sales. In the end, I’m not sure that the idea will work as easily as hoped. Still, with the changes now going on in technology, with ever increasing prices but not ever increasing incomes (for many of us), with the existence of “gotcha capitalism,” and with various other factors, we definitely need to be looking at new ways of doing things, and this is one approach that holds promise. Even if it doesn’t work out as hoped, it could provide useful information leading to whatever is next that will be successful.

    On a personal level, I almost never buy a book that costs $24, so if I got the book and wanted to keep it, I’d have a problem with the price point, especially if my copy was not new.

  37. rachelsmdai said

    John, you’re a trip (or as my mother would have said “a trip and a half!” [BTW, this is a good thing to be]) – I don’t know how you come up with these ideas but you do and I just love them. I think there will be some bugs to work out (as noted above) but I really look forward to participating and seeing how this all turns out!

  38. momarderie said

    The idea is stellar. I like the concept that if a book is good enough, word will spread, and the author will get paid. I also like the concept that those who cannot afford to pay much can still enjoy the book. I like to think that there are more of us who will be fair and pay what we can…and so believe this idea can work. I’m one who misses the day of the local bookstore that was owned by a book lover, versus a profit lover. Your idea appeals for the same reason…

  39. bookreader63 said

    I’m in.

  40. Cath said

    Elle, I saw this book listed on alibris with a half-dozen illustrators.

    So, John, will it be POD without illustrations?

    I love the basic idea. I feel so guilty about depriving authors of income that I’ve quit buying and trading used books. It doesn’t feel right anymore.

  41. Aaron said

    It’s an interesting idea. Why not make tipping available for any author (or any author that wants to “register”)? Logistically, I’m not sure how it would work. You’d need a good way to know how to pay the right person. If a few big publishers were willing to work with you, it might be an easy way to make all of the right connections. Anyway, I’d probably tip one or two dollars for a good used paperback.

  42. Our Mythic Storytelling program often focuses on tales with animal protagonists or animals in strong supporting roles.

    I’d love to partner with you, BookMooch and our local library to create a themed event around this re-release and participate in the experiment.

  43. lizbelldandy said

    I’m so in! If I like this book half as much as I expect I will, I will definitely pay for it and order more for gifts too. Great idea!

  44. MrsButterfly said

    I wrote (but never ever published) a series of books written as if our pet poodle had written his life story, Called the Adventures of Pepe Poodle. If this were to work for a reprinted book then I would concider doing it with my series. It could be a way of getting my work out there and eventually getting known as a Childrens Authoress. I hope this works for you and your friend keep us posted and I for one would tip the author and the illistrator. I joined bookmooch to get the books I wanted as I am a slow reader sometimes, it depends on what else is going on in my life. My last book took me 3 months to read. But the one I started on Friday night is nearly finished…and it is only Sunday…lucky due to bookmooch I have the next one in the series to go on with…Happy Reading everyone…

  45. tracy said

    I would do it. I like the sound of it. It is a bit tricky, because people have to actually be intereted in the book that is being offered. But, generate the interest in the book itself and i think you could be successful. Maybe offer some info on the book on the log-in page or somewhere that people see often. I almost never use the forums because they are so slow and often confusing for me. SO, advertising it there would be useless for some people.

  46. Suzi said

    Have you guys considered for self-publishing? It seems like it might have some great cross-over potential for the BookCrossing crowd as well as the Bookmooch.

  47. Suzi said

    Oops, clicked ‘submit comment’ before I was ready. I was going to say that I haven’t tried the site and I have no idea what their quality or pricing schedule is like. Just mentioning it because it’s a new service (I think it only went up a couple of weeks ago) and maybe you guys hadn’t seen it. I don’t know much about it though other than it is affiliated with BookCrossing.

  48. Lis said

    I mooch books so that I can keep them, not give them back again. To borrow a book, I go to the library. Perhaps if it was an emerging author that I felt the need to encourage I might tip, but again I tend to read books from the library and buy only what I think I will reread for years to come.

  49. jim tee said

    Great idea! Not keen on the particular book.
    Would collaborate if the subject was of interest.

  50. Lyn Cohn said

    I love the idea and 24 dollars is not unusual for an illustrated book in Australia. In the US you can get a paperback for 8 bucks? I hate you all. has people selling self-published titles – wonder how that’s going for them?
    If it works, will you publish my novels, John? Heh heh heh.

  51. Amtep said

    If someone mooches this with the explicit intent of keeping the book and not tipping anything, would you reject the mooch? If yes, how does that interact with your conclusions from the earlier discussion about “acceptable” reasons for rejecting a mooch?

  52. Yvonne said

    I love the idea of “tipping the author.” As an author myself, I rarely get feedback. Kind words would be appreciated as much as a PayPal contribution. (Although one can never go wrong with cash). This idea opens up a multitude of publishing possibilities. I see it as an avenue for the more obscure artists and writers to get their work to the general populace without all the politics involved with the “Big House” publishers. Do, do proceed!

  53. Kristine said

    Hmm, is this a new trend that’s beginning? Oprah gave away the Suze Ormon book for a few days, and Charles Bock gave away Beautiful Children for a couple days: both were online-only transactions. YEARS before Radiohead did it, Jane Siberry/Isa asked fans to support her voluntarily so she could have complete creative control.

    Look: something has got to change in publishing. It’s no longer working as a business model. I say anything is worth a try.

  54. amberlianne said

    It’s a fascinating idea, as long as you’re prepared to wait a LONG time before enough money comes in to cover the cost of printing. There are very few books I’m even willing to pay the normal cost of a new paperback book (around $7) for, and when I buy, I buy used. That is a lot of money for one book, especially by an author I’ve never heard of. It kind of reminds me of how Piers Anthony has started self-publishing because he’s all angry with all the publishing houses and now his readers are forced to pay closer to $19 for a paperback because of it.

    I’ll be keeping an eye on this project, though — here’s hoping that my cynicism is misplaced!

  55. Elizabeth said

    I think that this might work better with a book whose pod cost per book is lower. $20 a book is quite high – and $10 is high for a book that you don’t get to keep.

  56. kathy nordquist said

    I love the idea!! i also love cats so these books are of great interest to me, also as gifts. when i buy it, it will be to keep and i would expect a new copy. i would definitely pay the requested price for a new copy of these cats with the illustrations. keep me posted, i will be ready with the money ready in pay pal. i definitely want two asap. great idea – keep up the good work, john.

  57. Bella said

    Great idea! I think it would work well and authors deserve the kind of freedom that this could allow. There is also the bonus of direct market research in terms of readers responses and re-mooching rates etc. Many authors have taken advantage of publishing their work on Amazon Kindle for download with the same kind of freedom. This kind of system seems to be returning to the origin of books and reading.

  58. Vanessa said

    Yes, I would gladly participate in this program. I often come across references to out-of-print books in my research and would love the opportunity to buy a “new” copy instead of being forced to troll around on eBay to hopefully find a banged-up, dog-eared, read-in-the-sauna version. I also like the idea that the “tips” would go directly to the author instead of feeding a publishing company.

  59. Mike Comer said

    Great idea. I would buy/tip/pass on… whatever it took. And I’m from the traditional ink-on-paper book publishing industry.

    Mike Comer

  60. RoseAnn said

    I am definitely interested in this venture of supporting the author with his book. This may be the start of something big! I can think of a few other out of print books I’d like to be able to read again.

  61. Emily said

    The problem that I see is that I wouldn’t want to tip at all (much less $10!) unless I really loved the book. And if I really love the book, then I want to keep it. But I don’t want to feel obligated to pay $24 to keep it, since I already “bought” it with my bookmooch points, and since I never pay that much for any book at all.

    Maybe I’m in the minority, but I’m really not sure this would take off except in circles of altruistic people who just want to support authors for the joy of it.

  62. G.L. (zenfish) said

    This is a brilliant idea. As a writer, I think this is a charming way for authors to distribute work. I had been considering how I might distribute poetry “chapbooks” (mine and others’) via bookmooch. This idea of “tipping” is brilliant. I appreciate that it is inclusive of people of all classes/incomes. This could be the revolution I’ve been waiting for: writers get paid and art is free. !

  63. Fyoder said

    I’m skeptical, but my cat likes the idea. I like the idea of conducting the experiment and actually seeing how it goes. I would be happy for my skepticism to be proven wrong. And both my cat and I would like a copy. We can share as she can’t really read. She likes to sit on books, but I’m not sure that is the best way to absorb knowledge. But try telling anything to a cat.

  64. As one of the posts above suggested there should be a page printed in the book (up front I would think) explaining how this distribution model works. Including; where to tip the author, where you can order your fresh copy, how to join Bookmooch, etc.

    Maybe there should be a couple of notes pages where readers can acknowledge mooching/reading/tipping for this copy. Even if readers anonymously recorded how much they tipped it would encourage others to do the same.

    As this is an experiment would it be possible to record how often each individual copy is mooched?

    I don’t think there should be a suggested tip amount. As a number of people have said on this blog $10 is a lot for some especially for an unknown read. The difference between nothing and $10 is significant. If the amount was left completely open no one would be put off by the thought of $10 and even a few one and two $s would add up.

    Is there more economic value in the life-after-the-first-sale of a book? Defiantly, the trick is to transfer some of this value to the author. Good luck.

  65. Kenneth Yeo Chye Whatt said

    Good idea ! I want one ! Cheers !

  66. Dudley said

    I am a publisher, as well as an author, and have been for the longest while working on a new model of distribution. Although there may be inherent problems, as well as limitations, I have warmed to your idea and would like not only to observe it in operation, but participate with several titles of our own. Cheers!

  67. Helena Page said

    This is a very interesting idea As is happens I have many cat crazy friends so I would be interested in buying a copy .This could be a break through idea for new authors ,it is so hard for them to be published .If a book proved a great success on bookmooch obviously publishers would look at them favourably for further books and reprints.
    Wishing you good luck with this Helena

  68. Leslie Radwan said

    This reminds me of “shareware” computer programs from “back in the day”.
    It’s something that can be tried…

  69. Michael said

    I am an author, a publisher and a bookbinder. I am intrigued with your idea. I think it could be a pipeline connecting authors to many good sources of exposure. A good story is a good story, no matter what the form. I would tend to list a publication and its availability on several media, from free electronic downloads to pass along books, paperback, hardcover and audio and/or multimedia.

    Authors sell books through exposure and getting the book out there by any means is beneficial.

    Terrific idea! Let me know how I can help.

  70. As an author and artist, I’d love to be able to offer my work economically to those interested and in love with books.

    I love the concept, the originality of the idea and it reminds me how much Book Mooch is a leader in the many, many, many book clubs out there.

    I’d love updates on this as you progress.


  71. Tammy said

    It seems the price is steep considering this – the $24 ONLY covers the price to print and ship the book… No royalties to the author!!

    I think it’s a great idea otherwise, but seems that the price per book would have to be lowered in order to make this profitable for the author. I believe the author DESERVES to be paid for his/her work. But I’m reluctant to spend 24 bucks on any book. And that doesn’t even cover any profit for the author! Seems that eliminating the middle-man (publishing company) should INCREASE profits for the author, not eliminate them.

    I love the idea but it needs some tweaking to be a win-win situation for reader AND author.

    I’ve only read some of the other comments, so there may be some great ideas there too that I didn’t see.

  72. vegasbooklover said

    Neat idea. Hope I can take advantage of this.

  73. Juliana Bendandi said

    Dear John,

    I love Bookmooch and it’s definitely allowed me to read more (and buy new stuff too, since the books don’t have to “meet the standard” anymore because I can get points when giving them away.) And your new idea sounds terrific. There are tons of terrific out of print books that I would love to buy and Mr. Wood’s book looks excellent. I’d love to have a look at it and the conditions you’ve outlined make the situation ideal.
    Cheers, Juliana

  74. psammead said

    sounds like a brilliant idea! looking forward to seeing what comes of it.

  75. darsh said

    Excellent idea. Please do it

  76. Joan said

    Now you’re talking! This is similar to the underlying ethic of ‘share-ware’ wherein (whatever the technicalities) basically an Author lets you have the software (rather, actually grants you the right to use it β€” freely or temporarily) and only asks that, if you like it and use it, that you voluntarily pay some reasonable fee. It’s a middle-ground β€” an oasis β€” between ‘totally free’ and the high-dollar commercial ‘name brand’ [you’re favourite (or least favourite) company name here] application software.

    It’s an economy based on trust and good behaviour. These are ideas which persist in enough of us that it can work. Big business takes over partly because of their strange ability to lever us away from our basic communal instincts.

    I say this ‘gift’ economy idea is super. Let’s make it work β€” and show the leviathans that they’re not all they’re cracked up to be.


  77. dognose said

    i think this is a very good set of questions and proposals. i would gladly partake. i salute good work, woof woof!

    also, you look a lot different than the sort of twentysomething mac-programming scruffy-bangs flats-o’berkeley don’t-own-a-suit wind-surfing mountain-biking kind-of-guy i had imagined.

  78. Bobbie Pepper said

    It sounds like a very creative idea. I would be interested.

  79. henitsirk said

    I am a freelance copy editor, so I’m not prepared to say that I want the publishing industry as it stands to go away anytime soon! But I also think it’s interesting that people either want to make sure the author gets more of the purchase price, or they don’t want to pay for books at all (or only are willing to pay a price that is artificially low because of economies of scale for mega-publishers and mega-bookstores).

    Just as an FYI, a copy editor can be paid the equivalent of $2.50 per page (typically much higher). Any author, even if self-publishing, needs someone to review their book for errors. So right there, you are looking at a minimum cost of $250 for a 100-page book, $500 for a 200-page book, and so on. The author needs to recoup that, whether he or she wants to make a living from the book or not!

    I think the self-publishing model is wonderful–low overhead, the author can set the price–but there is something to be said for the marketing, editing, and distribution power of publishers.

    That said, if you and Mr. Wood are willing to front $24 per book for the initial mooches, and then theoretically make a profit after the first 3 moochers per book tip him $10 each, then I think those prices are quite reasonable. I don’t think $10 is too high for a nice paperback (this appears to be more of a trade paperback size, not a mass market paperback).

    And do please make sure that you check on the permissions for the illustrations–that is indeed completely separate than the text copyright.

  80. Alix said

    Sounds a really wonderful idea. Since finding bookmooch I have read many books I wouldn’t normally have.
    Peer to peer recommendation seems to be increasing especially with the rise of blogs.

  81. Valerie Vogrin said

    I’ve put several copies of my own novel, published by a university press, in my inventory, as an experiment to see if I can garner a few more readers in this way. Since it’s a university press, theoretically my book will never go out of print, as long as any copies remain. Yet there’s no press or publicity for a four year old novel to encourage sales. I figure if people can read my book (a brand new signed copy) for the price of postage, they may pass it along, or even purchase a new copy online to give as a gift, or? We’ll see. This does seem like an opportunity for authors whose books already exist (as opposed to those to be printed on demand).

  82. carol said

    My cat and I will be waiting in line for this one.

  83. As I myself am a POD author and have a huge interest in the POD publishing world, and also run a POD review site, I’d love to participate in this and explore the findings. Heck, I’d love to do the same with my own out of print book if it meant I could get rid of some extra copies and make a buck or two. Definitely keep us posted! And good luck!

  84. I’d love to be in on this experiment! Having been in animal rescue for over 25 years, the cats-as-characters idea really appeals to me. I also know that the Warriors series by Hunter (a kids’/teens’ series) was and is highly sought after by kids, YAs, and adults as well; and that’s a cats-as-characters theme as well.

    I’d like to have a copy to own and would tip accordingly. How do we sign up to get on the list to receive one?

    I think the part that especially appeals to me is that it would be consumer-driven. If we like it, we’ll spread the word & hopefully make money for the author while also gaining exposure for him/her. In this way, good works will profit. And what sinks or swims ultimately will be determined by how it’s received and not by what’s published and put out there for us based soley on it being a huge cash cow for the ‘big boys.’ It’s “Mooches’ Book Club” instead of Oprah’s!! πŸ˜‰

    Please keep us updated!!

    Beth C

  85. terryt8 said

    It’ll be a great experiment. Keep in mind though, that you’re using only one book, and a rather quirky book at that. If the program fails, how will you determine whether the problem was with the program itself or with the particular book?

    Can you launch this experiment with at least 3-4 different books at the same time?

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