I got an email today from someone, who, having seen my posting on the tealArt knitting blog regarding my intentions to write patterns, and pictures of some of my designs on ravelry, encouraged me to write patters because she really liked what she saw and wanted to knit some of my stranded patterns.

This was amazing. And I feel when people are, basically, asking to give you money that you should really go with that, because its a sign.

This is something that I've been thinking about for some time, and I did need the encouragement. But I am at a bit of a loss, about how to orchestrate it.

The truth is that selling digital wares is a somewhat difficult proposition: you're selling an idea, not a physicality, and digital documents are infinitely copyable, so how do you both not give everything away for free, and not turn into an obnoxious capitalist about the whole scheme.

I think a tip jar-type model is probably the easiest/most likely solution, but it is difficult to ponder correctly. And I want to have something that will last long term, and not blow away in a few months when fads change.

So my first instinct was to write Cory Doctorow, about the technological angle of the document distribution, because this sort of model seems to be right up his alley. And I think knitting patterns are enough different from fiction that the models are different enough that it might be interesting thing to explore.

I'm not sure that I have a good solution, yet, so your input is of course appreciated, but I'll repost the relevant parts here, below the fold, because I can.

I have a question quandary that I hope you'll be able to offer some insight on at your connivence.

I do a fair bit of design work for hand knitting, and I've gotten a few requests to write up and offer some patterns, but I think on a conceptual level these "things" could be short stories, or essays, or bits of software programs.

This seems like a generally enviable position, but I'm at a bit of a loss. I have a number of patterns that are/will be for free/creative commons downloads. But I have a number big/intense patterns patterns for sweaters that I'm not sure will work well in this model. So I guess the crux of my question, is do you know of any good solution/service that will allow variable pricing/donation models, for electronic document delivery that don't suck and/or don't make me seem like an obnoxious capitalist?

Some thoughts about knitting patterns in contrast to other electronic text solutions:

  • The digital copies can sufficiently/completely replace the physical/paper copies (They're short, so it's feasible to print them).
  • Digital copies are preferable. Many knitters photo copy patterns from traditionally issued books because it is easier to cary around a few sheets in a page protector than a whole books.
  • If you can get all the patterns that you want from a book, there's little incentive to buy the book, for many. Many knitters will only buy a book if X number of patterns seem like things they would want to knit.

Delightfully, knitters are pretty willing, on the whole to pay for things (there's disposable income there) and have adapted pretty well to the internet, so I think that if I can give people a way to pay for the documents, many will, without needing some sort of tight fingered system. But I'm largely unaware of what kind of options are out there.

Any insight is much appreciated.

Cheers, tycho

He suggested the Lulu.com document delivery system that lets you both give away things for free and charge for them. Which seems like a good place to start, though I wrote the following clarification/response.

I'd sort of like to do something more along the lines of another sky press http://www.anothersky.org/, so that it presents folks with a "buy now for ____" box with some reasonable value in it, with an explanation that you could set it to zero, and you could get it for free... So that the downloading experience is structured around the expectation of "not-free" but is still freely available.

I fear having to home bake something, which would take too much time away from doing other things, like writing, but it might not be that hard.

Thanks, cheers...