The blogging world is talking a lot about the issue of free content. Most of this discussion revolves around the print world of newspapers, magazines and books. The big name bloggers are arguing their varying points of view. If you want to read more you can go here. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/06/malcolm-is-wrong.html
The topic is also coming up a lot in the knitting world. Janet Szabo says on her blog “As I've noted in previous blog posts, I'm finding it harder and harder to compete with all the free knitting information that can be found all over the Internet. I've been in this business for 13 years, and it's gotten a lot harder in the past couple of years to make a living at it. Janet can be found here http://bigskyknitting.com/Blog/Sep09Blog.html
Annie modesitt has also tackled her concerns here
She speaks more about the lack of value our work gets than to the issue of free content but I can’t help but think that the two are interrelated. People don’t place a premium on items they get for free and the numbers of free patterns out there are devaluing the paid patterns. Many designers produce free patterns as a marketing tool but this may ultimately bite us back. I’m considering a free pattern for this blog but I find myself conflicted about the idea. Some designers on Ravelry have reported that their free patterns do not increase the sales on their paid patterns.
In our digital economy with many “wanna” be designers (me included) and lower barriers to enter publishing, it's quite natural that the price will be lowered. If a designer can gain market share by charging less, a rational one will charge less but to what end? Will we devalue the market to the point that none of us can make a living? We're always going to need designers, but the business model is clearly changing and not all of us will survive. I have time to test my own abilities due to some private income but it does cost me money to produce patterns and ultimately there will come a point where if I can’t turn a profit it won’t make sense for me to pursue a design career. What do you think?