Subject: Re: Economics of software distribution
From: ghost@ALADDIN.COM (L. Peter Deutsch)
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 93 08:32:42 PDT

> Thus, I conclude that in order to write free software, you must be
> subsidized.

I agree.

> For example, one might have a distribution method which provides
> steady income so that the programming effort can be supported.
> [...... various ideas deleted ......]
> So, I think that we must stop separating distribution from creation;
> we have to realize that in free software, writing the program is pure
> speculation, and delivering and supporting the program is the way to
> generate steady income.

This is an interesting idea, but I don't think you can make much money on
it.  First, the *distribution* of a lot of free software is already
subsidized -- the Internet appears not to have any costs to its individual
users.  Beyond the Internet, there are commercial information services
like GEnie and AOL, and shareware houses; you would have to either
undercut them or provide additional value besides delivery.  I speak from
experience here: orders for Ghostscript on PC-compatible diskettes
generates only a few hundred dollars in revenue a year, since the vast
majority of users can get it from the other sources just mentioned.  You
might suggest I raise the distribution price beyond the current $28 a
copy, but I can't raise it very much, because it competes with commercial
products that come with reasonable end-user documentation *and* support
for $149 a copy.  And as I've noted before, support is labor-intensive,
and produces much less revenue per hour of time put in by the vendor.

L. Peter Deutsch :: Aladdin Enterprises :: P.O. box 60264, Palo Alto, CA 94306, ...decwrl!aladdin!ghost ; voice 415-322-0103 ; fax 322-1734
	    "Implementation is the sincerest form of flattery."