Saskatchewan writer Don Kerr’s latest poetry collection, The dust of just beginning (2010), has two interesting things on the copyright page. First, the book is under a Creative Commons license, under the terms of which anyone can “copy, distribute and transmit the work” for non-commercial purposes, as long as the author is properly credited. Second, besides issuing the collection as a handsome paperback, the publisher (Athabasca University’s AU Press) also offers it in an electronic format. Go to their web site and there it is— a photo of the book cover and the usual button to click if you want to order it, but also a tab labelled “E-book” where you can download single sections or the entire book. It’s a PDF of the book, so not in the same format as the e-books you get for an iPad or similar device, but still— an entire brand-new book of poetry, for free!
My first reaction was “Neat!” My second was “How can they afford to do this?”
AU Press makes all its publications available for free over the Internet as a matter of policy:
AU Press operates on the model of a knowledge-based economy, to which we contribute by providing peer-reviewed publications unfettered by the desire to commodify thought or to restrict access to ideas.
They say, moreover, that academic presses find their sales actually go up when readers can sample their works online.