06 JULY, 2011
By: Cindy Chiang
Free press, priceless words, or what Paul Revere has to do with the future of grassroots publishing.
We’ve previously explored tomorrow’s merchants of culture, the literati’s meditations on the future of the written word and, most recently, 7 platforms changing the future of publishing. Today, we turn to the delightful and unusual approach to publishing of the Concord Free Press, whose experiment to “free the books” dares us to interact with books more like we do with stories — as social artifacts given freely, widely shared, and fluidly circulated.
Wielding original fiction by the likes of Scott Phillips, Gregory Maguire, and Wesley Brown, the unorthodox Massachusetts-based project, operating under the motto “free their books and their minds will follow,” is rethinking the goals of publishing as it pushes us to imagine how we can harness the power of stories for purposes beyond the commodification of culture. Founded by writer Stona Fitch, Concord Free Press publishes limited quantities of its first-edition paperbacks and gives them away for free.
CFP’s latest paperback, Rut by Scott Phillips, sports a bold cover design and “$0.00″ price tag. (We also couldn’t help but swoon over CFP’s ever-clever logo that silhouettes a reading-and-riding Paul Revere.)
By taking a copy, you agree to give away money to a local charity, someone who needs it, or a stranger on the street. Where the money goes and how much you give –that’s your call. When you’re done, pass this novel on to someone else (for free, of course), so they can give. It adds up.”
In this short code of conduct, the CFP lays out some admirable new goals behind monetizing the written word. It pushes us to engage with our social responsibility and re-circulate our stories to create connected communities, a fine addition to our running list of collaborative consumption tools that empower us to have more by owning less.
And it pays — CFP’s books generate between $45,000 and $50,000 per title in donations, and those are just the donations that people actually report.
To generate more support for its authors and free books, the same folks behind CFP recently launched the Concord EPress, where fans can catch up on electronic versions of any of the “given-out” titles they missed in paperback. Digital editions of previously printed titles are available as a Kindle downloads, with the proceeds of each $7.77 ebook being split two ways between the author and CFP’s free paperback program.
If you’re as blown away by CFP’s mission as we are, you can support the project with a tax-deductible donation.