Since making the decision (and launching the Kickstarter) to publish The Manual online for free, we’ve heard positive reactions from long-time and new readers alike. Yet we wouldn’t be surprised if some wondered — with all our articles and lessons available online for free, why would anyone pay for our ebook, audiobook, and print editions?
It’s a good question, and one we grappled to answer ourselves as we pulled together our Kickstarter proposal. Matthew Butterick, who experimented with a similar path using his publicly-available online book, Practical Typography, addressed this better than we ever could:
Still, readers could reasonably complain that they haven’t been given enough opportunities to change their habit. So here you have it: a book that invites you to pay. Not because you have to. Not because you want to. Not even because you should. Rather, because the alternative—starving the content you enjoy—is against your interests.
We flipped our publishing model from paid print to a free web edition and paid ebook, audiobook, and print subscriptions to embrace Butterick’s philosophy. We’re inviting you to pay, and we encourage you to contribute to whatever measure you can to help support good work and keep it openly available on the web.
The World Wide Web was founded on an idea of generosity, with all nodes of the network sharing information with one another, freely and openly for all. This same generosity – of sharing, of trading interesting work – brought the field of design to where it is today.
We couldn’t contribute to a full measure when our work was bound by a print paywall, so we’re changing our publishing process to echo the way our discipline has grown. By publishing The Manual freely and openly on the web, we hope to honor those same principles and continue to move the web forward.
We know this is a risk, but we’re positive that it’s one worth taking. We believe our openness will be met with generosity and a shared sense of responsibility from our readers. We hope you’ll prove us right, and back us on Kickstarter