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should all permaculture stuff be for free?

 
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$40 for a book is a piffle in some cases and a massive fortune in others. In college the smaller and more obscure the book the higher the price went. In the 1980's I was used to paying $300 for a book that was less than an inch thick and sometimes the instructor wouldn't even touch the cover, then it would go to 'discontinued' (aka a new book for the class next semester) and buyback would offer you $1-2 for it. Still in the plastic.

Printing and dissemination costs should be down... over years I collected the equipment and supplies, I can comb-bind, spiral bind, and perfect-bind up to an inch and a half. I have a good color laser printer, and can actually publish my own items, in whatever size run I want. It is real labor though to do layout, print, collate, and bind, plus costs of materials, but. I have the jigs to sew a book, and have made hardcovers in the classic style. I even have a saddle stapler. (Priscilla, the Part Temper Part Mental, and your shoulder gets a workout). For a short run the costs are higher than you think, a print house or publisher has the bulk, equipment for mass production and the trained labor to do so, which makes per-copy come down. Still, don't discount the cost of the production of the printed bound word.

I live in a town that is very rural, and 'instant gratification' isn't easy. For me e-book for some things is the viable option. I can print my own copy if I want (private use) or just the few pages I really need for when I'm doing the whatever and want to refer to it in the field. If those few pages get trashed, my book-contents are still safe, and I can print more if I need. By buying I have supported the person that produced the content that I am using and enjoying.

Only you, the end user, can put the final personal value on the book, DVD, video, e-book, that is available and is it worth that much to you. I find that $40 arbitrarily I will pause, so I will have to decide if I will get the value for my purchase and if and when I will buy it. I will admit that with the 'instant gratification' factor and that usually the e-version is cheaper because the additional costs of print and distribution are much reduced, I will opt for that. I have a reference library that I started to build in the 1970's and I still occasionally add print to it, that a lot more of my collection is now CD, DVD, Video, and digital. I have no problems paying someone their royalty, that is how they get reimbursed for their efforts in producing what I have the option of obtaining. I admit I use amazon a lot, and the 'look inside' feature is valuable because I can't look at the book in my hands first before I head to the counter....

I will reiterate, that I feel that there should be a mix of free information to get someone started, and to let them be able to determine and decide on other information that is packaged and available for pay, what is of value to them. If you can't afford it, there may be other ways to get access (pooling with others to buy a copy, library, even asking the library if they would consider getting it for their general circulation collection, haunting used book dealers and thrift stores)
 
master pollinator
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Seva, is there a particular book you're looking to buy right now? You might be able to find it for a lower price through http://www.abebooks.com/
 
Deb Rebel
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Seva, is there a particular book you're looking to buy right now? You might be able to find it for a lower price through http://www.abebooks.com/



Or see if your local library has a copy, or is willing to acquire a copy for general circulation... or go in with some friends and pool money to buy the book?
 
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Deb Rebel wrote:

Tyler Ludens wrote:Seva, is there a particular book you're looking to buy right now? You might be able to find it for a lower price through http://www.abebooks.com/



Or see if your local library has a copy, or is willing to acquire a copy for general circulation... or go in with some friends and pool money to buy the book?



Or... preview... the book, confirm that it's really worth the paper it's printed on, put the material into use in your life and purchase it as soon as finances allow.
 
pollinator
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Deb said >>> "I will reiterate, that I feel that there should be a mix of free information to get someone started, and to let them be able to determine and decide on other information that is packaged and available for pay, what is of value to them. "

I agree. During my career in veterinary medicine, new information was disseminated basically the same way. A certain amount of basic info was broadcast freely. If one chose to delve deeper or wished to acquire skills, then higher education could be purchased. I've paid for plenty of books, seminars, and labs in order to go in depth on a subject. Honestly, I never signed up for the pricy, glitzy sessions. But moderately priced continuing education was acceptable.

I agree that taking a permie course of any type and earning some sort of certificate surely does not make one competent nor ready to teach. I've hired enough school trained techs and veterinarians to know that school training doesn't trump on hands experience. I believe one needs to work in the trenches for a couple of years, preferably with different mentors, in order to get a skill under one's belt.

Not to belittle a person's effort, but a single permie certificate, or even a series of them, wouldn't impress me. I'd like to see field experience, preferably in multiple situations, before I'd respect that person to declare that they could teach. A combination of book learning and on hands is the best, in my book.
 
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Book education does not replace practical experience. Say I was teaching installing poly line for underground water line. I can say to be sure to use ALL stainless hose clamps for the splices. But it won't mean much to you till you have spent 10 hours with a shovel digging up a leaking splice that failed because the hose clamp box simply said stainless(rather than all stainless) and didn't mention that the worm is galvanized steel in that type of clamp. Thing is that failure may take a decade or more to happen so the guy who made that mistake thought he had done it right because it worked initially. But digging that line up with shovel in the middle of a mud hole that is caving off from the sides and where your boots sink deeper than the shovel with every shovel full and the mud sticks to the shovel so badly you have to bang every shovel full off rapidly makes the "All" in all stainless mean something to you that no amount of classroom time every will. Since I was both the idiot that thought I had done the job right to begin with and the person who over a decade later had to dig it up by hand because it was no longer possible to get a backhoe to that location because of more recent buildings trust me that lesson stuck. The person teaching the class needs to be someone who has the book knowledge but who also has paid the price of the experiences like digging that water line up a decade later because they didn't know better to begin with.
 
Deb Rebel
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C. Letellier wrote:Book education does not replace practical experience. Say I was teaching installing poly line for underground water line. I can say to be sure to use ALL stainless hose clamps for the splices. But it won't mean much to you till you have spent 10 hours with a shovel digging up a leaking splice that failed because the hose clamp box simply said stainless(rather than all stainless) and didn't mention that the worm is galvanized steel in that type of clamp. Thing is that failure may take a decade or more to happen so the guy who made that mistake thought he had done it right because it worked initially. But digging that line up with shovel in the middle of a mud hole that is caving off from the sides and where your boots sink deeper than the shovel with every shovel full and the mud sticks to the shovel so badly you have to bang every shovel full off rapidly makes the "All" in all stainless mean something to you that no amount of classroom time every will. Since I was both the idiot that thought I had done the job right to begin with and the person who over a decade later had to dig it up by hand because it was no longer possible to get a backhoe to that location because of more recent buildings trust me that lesson stuck. The person teaching the class needs to be someone who has the book knowledge but who also has paid the price of the experiences like digging that water line up a decade later because they didn't know better to begin with.



Been there and burned about that sort of stuff too.

That's why for example I paid for classes in bobbin lace though the book I bought did cover it all in good detail. The classes were worth it, as the woman was a great expert and having her show and point out where I wasn't doing things right were worth every cent. Still the book gave me a place to start from, and it is still a good reference. It's trying to figure out how to navigate the course, and do and buy where you think your money and time is worth tapping the one with more expertise. You have my sympathy and condolences about the redigging
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Seva, is there a particular book you're looking to buy right now? You might be able to find it for a lower price through http://www.abebooks.com/



Thank you.

Just today I looked up "The Bio-Integrated Farm", which has list price of $40 (that's where my arbitrary figure must be coming from) but sells for $27 on Amazon; I am not sure if I will read it more then once, or even if I read it once completely; I ended up requesting one at the library.

The next one in my list is "The humanure handbook", which is reasonably priced at $15 for an in octavo 250-pages book; e-book is $10.

 
Deb Rebel
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Seva Tokarev wrote:

Tyler Ludens wrote:Seva, is there a particular book you're looking to buy right now? You might be able to find it for a lower price through http://www.abebooks.com/



Thank you.

Just today I looked up "The Bio-Integrated Farm", which has list price of $40 (that's where my arbitrary figure must be coming from) but sells for $27 on Amazon; I am not sure if I will read it more then once, or even if I read it once completely; I ended up requesting one at the library.

The next one in my list is "The humanure handbook", which is reasonably priced at $15 for an in octavo 250-pages book; e-book is $10.



I see you are in Minnesota. If you are close to or in Minneapolis-St Paul, both the city main libraries are excellent and if not those, the University of Minnesota main library is a real gem. Stop by there if you are looking for a book. I still miss that last one deeply. You have to be a student to check books out of the last one but you can use the resources there for free.
 
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The humanure handbook has been available for free from the author for many years. In other words... Legitimately free.
 
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I read the first and the last page of this discussion. I hope I did not miss anything interesting not reading pages 2-5.
In the first page someone came in with the question: what is permaculture, what is the goal? concluding giving information helping people applying permaculture should be free, because it is needed this knowledge spreads as fast as possible, because it is life-saving (for all planet Earth).
Principally that is a right way of thinking ... but ... Those who are providing that valuable information are still living in the world-as-it-is-now. In this world you need money, at least to pay the taxes, but oftentimes there are much more things you need to pay (in money).
In a 'perfect world' (a world in which everyone is applying all principles & ethics of permaculture to all aspects of life ) of course nobody has to 'make money', everyone has the abundance of yield the planet provides.
But now that is not (yet) the case. So it's very understandable the creators of valuable information have to charge a price for their products ...
(my 2 little coins)
 
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Generally speaking, things that are free and neither appreciated, respected or cared for as they should be.  In my house, with my kids, if everyone is supposed to randomly do a job (as they see it needs doing) that pretty much means no one does it until my wife or I either do it or insist an individual or group does it NOW.  Maybe everyone is different, but I see that as a pretty good microcosm of humanity.

No one has really ever been able to come up with a good large scale alternative to some kind of capitalism (whether your trading sea shells or dollars).  Up to village size, some form of communism has worked traditionally (I maintain they were still capitalistic, just using different methods of keeping score).  Above that level, you loose track of the individuals and we need some other way of keeping things balanced.  (Not trying to defend modern capitalism here, it's got it's own, very obvious flaws).

People do things occasionally for the hell of it, but for consistant output, we need incentives.  We do things for reasons.  Some of those reasons are selfish, some aren't.  Some appear to be selfish to some, but really aren't.  If you want people to continue to do a particular thing, you need to give them a reason for doing it.  If you consistantly demand that others provide something for you and you aren't willing to make an effort to give them what they feel is an acceptable return, you are either a cheapskate or a parasite.  A cheapskate consistantly overvalues his own product and undervalues everyone else, which shows a skewed worldview.  A parasite feels entitled to whatever you have, and shows true stupidity.  (there is the special case for those who need but can't reciprocate through no fault of their own.  That is generally very disabled, very elderly, small children and society recognizes and trys to minimize their suffering.  It doesn't include addicts or the lazy).  There is so much free permaculture info out there, that if you want to know something, someone is wanting to tell you how, you just need to keep searching.

If you create something and want to donate it, fine.  All for it.

If you create something and want to be paid for it, also fine.  If you have an exagerated opinion of your creations worth, you will find few if any takers.  Eventually you readjust the value or take it off the market.

If people only farmed because they felt like it, and then gave away their product, the vast majority of us would starve.  The same goes for electricity, running water, clothing, you name it!  They call it work because you do it even when you don't want to.
 
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Without giving my sob story, when time and money are both tight and/or unstable, it is really hard to justify the investment, even if it would ultimately save time and money in the long haul.  That doesn't mean I think it should all be free; enough information is free that a person can sift through it if they have the time and are willing to learn from mistakes as well.  It's just why some people, myself included, are reluctant to invest in the courses and such that do cost money.
 
Deb Rebel
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Emily Smith wrote:Without giving my sob story, when time and money are both tight and/or unstable, it is really hard to justify the investment, even if it would ultimately save time and money in the long haul.  That doesn't mean I think it should all be free; enough information is free that a person can sift through it if they have the time and are willing to learn from mistakes as well.  It's just why some people, myself included, are reluctant to invest in the courses and such that do cost money.



I totally understand and sympathize with that. Been there where a copy of a vitally needed reference book or eat for the week has been reality.

I still have learned and am very very careful, and invest my money where it can really reap a benefit. Recently I did buy the RMH DVD set (SD download) only because I could not visit the 2015 event, and WAS about to build three of them. In this case with cash bought firebrick and such, I wanted to do it right the first time and not have to redo it (plus break into the framing of my house was a scary bit). The list can be very long, on things one needs. If you are very short, there is asking your local library to invest in a copy... or going in with others to purchase a copy. (Of any permaculture information being sold versus being free).

Is there anyone around you, Emily, that is interested in like minded stuff, and would be willing to go in with you for certain things?
 
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laura sharpe wrote:It seems to me you are all preaching to the choir.

I do not know for sure all you charge for but if your intention is to spread the word putting roadblocks in the way doesnt seem to be the right thing to do.

When I first looked up rocket mass heaters, i was also looking up masonary heaters and other thing, I ran into your websight ( all of which have advertisements on them) and i looked around but to tell the truth, i was completely turned off when i saw that they were selling pdfs for 20 to 35 american dollars....pdfs! I bought a book for $15 dollars, I was completely moved away from anything to do with this sight. I am sorry but that is too much for an adobe file. You dont even need a stamp to mail that stuff. It took quite a bit more time for me to come back too.

I have no troubles with charges for workshops, i would not have had trouble at all if the charge for the pdf file was 5 or ten dollars but to me, these people did nothing original.

I do not mind you being paid, I know your idol charges for everything from the tour to the lecture. He does not charge for the idea though, he charges for his time. Offer donations, offer to sell things but be reasonable about it all.  

Oh dont tell me to look at the rock star, they are over paid, movie stars too...but they are not trying to start a revolution. Sometimes you put your back where your mouth is.



I'm the person selling the rocket mass heater PDFs for $12 to $25.

Most people who don't sell things don't see what goes into them.
I sell about  designs out of hundreds that we've worked on.  These are each the best designs we have developed for a particular purpose.  
We have helped dozens of owners of other designs that had problems, often going back to the site without charging the owner, so we know why NOT to recommend those other designs.
We also have put hundreds of hours into writing, drawing, formatting, test-printing, online store maintenance, and investigating "easier" ways to sell things that weren't.  
And my pesky phone company wants to be paid for Internet every month, whether or not I've sold things.  They are a game, friendly, rural phone company that did not charge $10,000 per household when they hooked up this mountain, and I like to support them making back their investment and sticking around.  

I used to charge $50 for each plan set, assuming that most customers would have a question or two, and I'd allow for spending roughly an hour per customer helping them understand and have success on their project.
Expert-designed boat plans that we look at go for anything from $80 to $120.  ($3000 for full-scale, engineer-stamped plans).  
As we improved our plans and fewer customers had questions, I've dropped the price to reflect that it's taking less time per customer to support their projects.

Yes, they still cost more than the free or $3 you might pay for a mass-marketed app.  Think of it as supporting actual, real people working on bootstrap research in a small but vital niche.  
We do sell cheaper, mass-market resources like the "Art of Fire," and "Simple Shelter," and Ernie's Chocolate Truffle Recipes; and I've made the "Owner Manual" very cheap to encourage people to document their own work.

If you want a free "idea" that has not been tested, you can find lots of them on YouTube.  
Aprovecho has a lot of free designs, which have been funded their own ways.  They have "the original rocket mass heater," without mentioning the builder's name (Ianto Evans).  However it's a pretty clunky version compared to where the design has gone since then.
A lot of project owners post pictures here, and sometimes SketchUp designs, more than precise enough to build something similar.  Whether it is tested and works, or just an idea, the reader must judge for themselves.

Ernie and I have given a lot of free advice on these forums; our book and our plans are informed by the number of hours we've spent diagnosing and helping others understand how to fix preventable problems with their projects.
The original inventor of the rocket mass heater published general guidelines, which cost about half as much as our book. Their book is readable, encouraging, inspiring, and does not contain buildable dimensions so you have to re-invent the design from the general concept.  I believe Ianto Evans regards this as a useful character-building exercise.  Ernie and I stuck a few scale drawings in our case study for that book, because we feel most of our readers have plenty of character already.

We choose to work with customers who are willing to pay for the value we offer.  
Our book, the Builder's Guide, costs $40 ($27 on Amazon) because we deliberately left the $20 and under market for our less-precise colleagues.

If I can save you months of wasted effort, or $1200 in materials you didn't need, or ripping the wrong size holes in your house, then I think $25 for a set of plans is pretty reasonable.  
If you would rather invest your own time in re-inventing what we have learned over the past 12 years, nobody is stopping you.

Thanks for all the support from everyone here.  
We have had some rough times along the road, and the Permies.com community has been a big part of keeping us going.

Yours,
Erica W
 
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I think there is a simple way to divide if should things have a cost and if they should be free. The big thing to know which it should be is the intent of the product. Is it something you are putting out to revolutionize the world and end suffering through a better idea/technology? If so you should offer it for free or the lowest $ to cost possible to get the widest spread of the knowledge. If however if it is something that is just a minor tweak of things that are already out, or clarification and better presentation. Then make your $ back at least for producing it. Even better, make attempt to at least a minimal income off it.

The difference as I see it is the impact your trying to make. If you claim you discovered the revolutionary secret to make the world a better place, or some tech that will make the combustion engine obsolete etc..., but are charging $100 or more for the info. Well I will be skeptical that your info is legit and be very unlikely to buy. If you really wanted to help the world you wouldn't be charging for the info, you would want everyone to get it and start making the planet better. At most the only charge would be to cover cost to provide the info. A small fee for paying for a website, or for a hard copy, or to cover the cost of production of the gadget that is so amazing. If your intent is to improve the world you would not be trying to get rich off it, you would be trying to make it the most affordable as possible or free so it gets out to the most people.

But if you are like Erica and Ernie and have taken RMH's and put together a comprehensive guide for people to follow and learn from, rather than the plethora of free info out there on RMH that might not be as well presented. Then kudos, you should be getting paid for your effort and I have no issue with paying it. There are plenty of plans, designs, etc out there for various things were permies enjoy that you can find similar free versions for but for the well presented guides, yes there is a nominal fee to get that. And rightfully so, to reimburse the person for the time and effort to produce it and to deal with the sending of you the stuff.

I see a lot of people put the value of the product on the investment put into the product. But realistically I think that is the wrong place to be looking to decide if you want to charge $ for your info or product. As I mention I think one should look to what the intent of the info is. If you dumped thousands of dollars into something, but your purpose is to fix poverty or some other lofty goal where you need it to spread and be accessible to work. Then I would suggest accept the loss and put it out free, or at cost of production.

But realistically how many things really are world changing miracle info or products? Not that many despite the claims by those who try to sell such info and products. Most stuff is folks offering info or a product that is useful but not a complete game changer. It is a way for them to make a modest income revenue stream so they can keep going doing the things they love. Which I see no issue supporting. But then I am of mind that I will pay more for a quality thing that helps support small business and especially so if it is local or part of my community, rather than looking for the cheapest mass marketed thing.
 
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I'm a professional writer, which means I'm definitely used to hearing how everything should be free, and I'm greedy for expecting people to pay, and I should write just because I value expressing myself, and how dare I think it's okay to charge money to read my work. Blah blah blah. It's ridiculous. Writing is my JOB--and even if I were still working at a day job and writing on the side, I still deserve to get paid for the time I put into it, the same way a person who has a day job and watches their neighbor's kids on the side deserves to get paid for the time and attention he puts into it.

I don't ask any of my readers to go do their work without pay, just because they like their jobs, so why should they expect the same of me? It's frustrating.

So how I think this all ties to the five-year-long thread...

A person who created content (a book, a film, instructions on how to build a heater) invested significant resources in that content. Maybe money, but definitely (at least) time, which is not free. If you're being paid to go to your desk job and spend your time there, then anybody else who spends time doing X or Y should be paid for their time, too. Of course, there comes a point where content creators can charge ridiculous amounts that don't make sense, compared to the value users get out of that content. But the market typically corrects for that. Somebody else will come along with similar information at a more sensible price point, and that audience will shift over to the lower-priced content. I see this all the time in my field.

If a person wants to offer some content for free (such as a blog), that's entirely their prerogative. Often, free content functions as a "free sample," like the little bits of cheese you can try at the grocery store. A savvy content creator will hook you with a blog, and then will funnel you to their pay-to-play products once you like them and feel all friendly and supportive toward them. There's nothing wrong with this. If you don't want to pay, you can limit yourself to the free stuff and enjoy what's there. But don't begrudge a person for charging money for their time. Time should not be considered to be free by default. It's nice when somebody chooses to NOT charge for their time, but if your employer doesn't expect you to put in your time and expertise for free, you shouldn't expect the same of any content creator out there in the world.
 
Good heavens! What have you done! Here, try to fix it with this tiny ad:
Taylor&Zach’s Bootcamp Journey
https://permies.com/t/115886/permaculture-projects/Taylor-Zach-Bootcamp-Journey
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