Hope it's a good one!
It falls to me once more (and it comes round scarily quickly) to wish you all a very happy new year, and a good year to come. To celebrate, Authors Electric are not charging you to read this blog… but then we never do. Nor do all the other bloggers I know of. In fact, our online lives, lucky us, are crammed with Free Stuff. Woohoo! Spoiled rotten, we are. Facebook? Free. Wikipedia? Wonga-less. Google? Gratis. Amazon? Amazingly free to publish with and awash with free Kindle books. Youtube? Yes, buckshee as well. And yet, and yet… Something odd happens when people get things for nowt. On the one hand, they start to resent paying for stuff. On the other hand, they have less respect for the free stuff. They take it for granted. An example. When you are holding a poetry reading or a book event, if you sell tickets in advance even if they are just £3, people are more likely to turn up on the night. Give away the tickets, and if it rains, they’ll stay away in droves. Free Kindle and other ebooks a few years back was a big thrill – then some people started resenting paying for them, while others despised the freebies as failures.
'Beulah, peel me a mouse. Spoiled rotten, moi?'

I really appreciate the effort some lovely people have gone to, scanning, converting, editing old books page by page and putting them on Kindle, so you can buy the complete Saki, Anthony Trollope, Austen, Dickens, often free or for less than a quid. So here I’m going to make a New Year Resolution: to appreciate our internet freebies, rather than taking them for granted or even booting off at them.

I gave Wikipedia a Christmas present this year as I did last year. Yes, I know people sometimes manage to put funny or scurrilous things on there, but like those who put classics on Kindle, Wikipedia allows a miracle – random people all over the world, choosing to spend their time just sharing vast amounts of knowledge and expertise – and all for nothing. Again, human beings who need to pay rent and Sainsbury’s bills are running this massive resource, and in fact they don’t even take ads. So last year they started occasionally suggesting users donate a few squids, and they are asking again. This doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.
Sharing is good, even if you are made of Meccano.

I’m sure we’ve all seen, perhaps even written, furious facebook posts like this: ‘Bloody facebook, how dare you put ADVERTS on my newsfeed! Help, can anyone out there tell me how to STOP SEEING these disgusting ads!’ I know it’s annoying to find ads for funerals and incontinence pads cropping up just after a significant birthday, but let’s face it, we’re using facebook for promo, for networking, for chat, for discussion, for friendship, for keeping up with family worldwide, and it’s all FREE. There are actually people out there somewhere keeping it all running pretty damn smoothly and guess what, they expect to get paid for doing their day jobs! Shocking I know. If we’re not paying their wages, somebody has to. So yes, it’s upsetting when the algorithms human beings on salaries design get it a bit wrong and post a ‘memory’ of something you’d rather forget, and occasionally there are glitches, but let’s be grateful for a great free service for a change.
An Aardvark. Aardvarks never killed anybody. Thank you, I'm here all week.

So, if you need to do some research for your new novel, or short story, or poem about aardvarks, google it, wiki it, tweet about it (also free), email your friends about it (ditto), blog about it, and post the link on facebook. Sometimes the good things in life really are free.

And none of these sites is paying me to say these things either (worse luck)!


Find out more about my various projects and productions on (books, art installations etc)
Some of my thirteen books are now on Kindle UK US, iBooks UK USKoboNook and more, on all platforms worldwide.
Follow me on Twitter @ValerieLaws or find me on facebook 


Dennis Hamley said…
Well said, Val. I've given twice to Wikipedia - and by no means the minimum suggested sum either. It's a duty to keep such an incredible resource alive.
Wendy H. Jones said…
Happy New Year. Very well said. I think people do appreciate things more if they have to pay.
Well said! All true. As writers, we know about working for free (which we all do from time to time) and the way people eventually come to expect it. I also think those of us who remember the olden days when research was a major - and often very expensive - slog, appreciate the amazing resources freely available at the click of a mouse.
Let's hope for a happy and more prosperous New Year for all of us!
Chris Longmuir said…
I think you've just said what most of us think, Valerie. I suppose when the internet raised it's electronic head, a lot of stuff was free and it took a while to cotton on the the fact that not everything was, and to realise some things have to be paid for. Hopefully a lot of us, although not all, have moved beyond that, and now realise that it's not some massive computer in the sky with an electronic brain that is providing this multitude of freebies for us, and that there are real people, who require to be fed and watered, behind all of the content.
Susan Price said…
A great New Year to you too, Valerie - and to all our members and readers.

I think your post has spurred me to actually make a payment to Wiki and Mozilla... I've been reading their pleas and thinking about it - but making the excuse that I'd have to find my credit card and I'm busy and I'll do it tomorrow and so on.

But you are so right, and the next time the message pops up, I think I'll get up, find that card, and cough up.
Mari Biella said…
A Happy New Year to you too, Valerie - and to everyone else. We're blessed in having so much free content these days, but at the same time we shouldn't take it for granted - so yep, next time Wikipedia asks me for donations, I'm going to hand something over. It won't be much, but it might just help...
glitter noir said…
Happy New Year, Valerie. And thanks for the insightful post about Free...which segues for me into thoughts about pricing in general. By and large, $.99--the new Free?--is taken as a sure signal of rot. And $1.99 is taken to be not much better...though some readers grow more reluctant with prices prices rising from $2.99 to $3.99 and up.

Getting back to Free, though...Maybe predictably Free is the problem: if we launch each new book with a no-price or low-price Event. Folks become jaded...just as they would if any of us give freebies at Christmas or St. Reb's Day every year. Maybe stage Free Events for all our books, or an entire series, at utterly unpredictable times...and for only a couple of days, not a week? Random thoughts. Maybe some of you can come up with some better ideas.
Fran B said…
Thanks for making me think about this. I've used the internet, including WIKI, extensively over the past couple of years while researching for my current novel-in-progress and not given much thought to who or what is behind it all. I will now and, yes, even contribute to it.
Lydia Bennet said…
Thanks for all your comments and kind words, folks!
Umberto Tosi said…
A fine bunch of resolutions, Valerie! I could not agree more. I do appreciate free reads - and I write a lot of them too. I too have learned to live in a barter society and one in which creative work must often be its own reward. Happy new year!

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