Presumably most of that is sunk cost and what the publisher ought to care about is discounted expected cashflows from the book.
I think that’s conceptually right. But it brings up another important point: negotiating to buy the rights was time-consuming and frustrating. And part of the annoyance was due to the publisher not acting as economically rational as you’d expect. We actually spent years saying things like “surely there’s a figure for which you’d be happy to sell the rights, could you just let us know what that number is?” There really wasn’t any progress until we got a (pro bono) lawyer involved who has a lot of experience in IP negotiations. Once she took over working with the publisher, things started moving along (though still at a relatively slow pace).
The book rights cost $30,000 to acquire.
It’s important to note, however, that there would likely be a ton of variation for different books. This would likely depend on what the publisher paid the author in advance and how many books they've sold / how much money they've made back.
Good idea! Just set myself a reminder to look at this a year from now :)
Not sure, I'll check with the team and get back to you.
I don't think Singer has considered doing this for other books, but I'm not positive about that.
The EA Meta Fund gave $10,000 for this, which seems very worthwhile. Of course, this may not be the full cost, and this also covered some other things. I like that they included free audiobooks; we should probably do that too if we pursue this.
FYI, this $10,000 grant (while greatly appreciated) was a (small) fraction of the total cost of the new edition of TLYCS. However, that project was significantly more ambitious that simply buying the rights and publishing an ebook; it was closer to writing, editing, and publishing an entirely new book given the scope of the updates. The project also included a complete overhaul of TLYCS website, which was largely outsourced. Finding and working with the celebrity narrators for the audiobook was also labor (and therefore cost) intensive, though this wouldn't be relevant for most books.
Re: a retrospective, there’ll likely be a more detailed one down the road, but TLYCS’s 2019 annual report includes a good deal of discussion about the early experience around the book project.
The key question here, is whether (and if so, to what degree) free download is a more effective means of distribution than regular book sales. So we should ask Peter Singer how the consumption of TLYCS changed with putting his book online.
Free distribution seems to have helped a lot. The original version sold ~45,000 copies in its first 10 years; in its first 6 months, we’ve distributed roughly the same number of copies of the 10th anniversary edition.
The original edition has presumably had more readers than the updated version so far: over 10 years you can rack up a lot of library checkouts and used book readings that aren’t captured in the sales numbers, and people are more likely to consume a book if they’ve paid for it than if they got it for free. But based on the first 6 months, I’d expect the new edition to be read many more times over the long term, and for that to be driven by it being freely available. (I'd also expect factors like promotion by the celebrity narrators of the audiobook to increase distribution.)
Terrific, thank you!
Thanks David, that all makes sense. For future iterations of this analysis, I’d be strongly in favor of adding a sentence about Peter like you had in last year’s summary.
Personal Contacts (14%), LessWrong (9.6%) and 80,000 Hours (9.6%) are still the main ways most people have heard of EA over time.
Shouldn’t Peter Singer be on this list? He showed up in 203 of the open ended responses (9.5% of 2137 total responses), and that doesn’t count any open ended comments that didn’t mention him by name or non-open ended responses that he’s associated with (e.g. the people who answered they heard about EA through TLYCS the organization, which I work for in the interest of disclosure).
Thank you for conducting and sharing this analysis!