It’s like this: the era of free information online is coming to an end.
Despite this, SaveYourself.ca provides approximately 95% of its content for free. A handful of “flagship” articles, the longest and most thoroughly researched, are only available after paying a fee of about US $20 each. Is this fair and ethical? Is it reasonable? Will the market “bear” it? Can I afford not to charge for my articles?
The best way to explain this is to be personal. At the moment that I am writing this, I have been working on this project for just slightly over one decade. It started by going to massage therapy college. I didn’t work for three years, and I paid about eight times more for tuition than I would have paid at university. My family and I could barely afford it. I only just finished paying off the student loans about twenty minutes ago.
After graduating, I then spent several years working extremely hard and just barely making ends meet. In my so-called “spare” time, I wrote several books’ worth of well-researched information about musculoskeletal health care. Why? Because it wasn’t there. Because there was a great need. And because I loved it.
And I’m still going strong. In fact, I’m writing more than ever.
And it costs an arm an a leg. The time costs, the server costs, the advertising-to-get-the-word-out costs, the development software costs, the backup hard drives, etc etc. You know how it is. Everything in life — absolutely everything — costs more than you think it’s going to. It was cheap in the beginning, just a few bucks a month for server fees. That was then.
Maybe you believe that information online “should” be free. Well, unfortunately, the ethics are a moot point. It’s not about what’s right or wrong, it’s just about what’s possible. It simply isn’t possible to publish good information for free indefinitely. Like any other complex thing, it requires loving, dedicated maintenance. It takes time and expertise and money to put it out there.
And so in 2005, I think, eight years into the project, I started soliciting donations and putting some of the best articles up for sale. How profiteering of me! It’s amazing I can sleep at night, from all that greed. Do I sound bitter? I probably am, a little bit!
Sometimes I kind of feel like a chump for doing this work. While all my yuppie friends have purchased Vancouver condos that have quadrupled in value since they last changed their socks, their semi-impoverished writer/therapist buddy has dedicated the best years of his life to an obscure online public service which now turns a profit each month which wouldn’t cover their latté budget.It’s amazing I can sleep at night, from all that greed. Do I sound bitter? I probably am, a little bit. Sometimes I kind of feel like a chump for doing this work.
So, I’m putting out this friendly wake up call to everyone out there who resents being asked to pay for good information. Almost before it even really got going, the golden age of free information on the internet is ending.
All across the virtual globe, web developers and self-publishers like me are stretched to their limit. A great many of us have already crossed over, and have been earnestly looking for ways to “monetize” our websites and make them pay … or at least keep them from bleeding us to death. Most institutions are way ahead of us with all kinds of fee-for-access business models.
Consider: when I want to read a scientific paper, so that I can provide the consumer (that’d be you) with good quality health care information, I have to pay $25–40USD to get access to that scientific paper … for just one of them.
Thanks, dear reader! Thanks for understanding. And now, of course, a plug for one of my tutorials … :-)