ed.trager at gmail.com
Sat Jan 27 11:08:10 PST 2007
Hi, Gustavo and Rob and everyone,
> > charged my ms, adobe etc are very high, while the value of design here is lower than in central
> > countries. most design businesses would break if they would pay for (all) licenses.
Gustavo, I think you just have to make your type business global. Of
course, with a good web site, some good fonts, and some good publicity
within the type community, you can certainly do that!
Then you just sell your commercial fonts in Europe, Japan, the US and
Canada and don't have to worry about whether local markets in Brazil
and elsewhere in South America are ready to pay for your stuff or not.
> One of the virtues claimed for "Open Source" development is that it
> reduces prices.
> This affects producers as well as consumers.
I've been recently reading the book, "Wikinomics: How Mass
Collaboration Changes Everything" by Tapscott and Williams
I highly recommend this book to everyone on this list. Although all
of you will already know many things that this book talks about, still
it will give you a wider perspective on the impact of FLOSS in the
wider world of business.
Returning to the topic of struggling independent font designers trying
to make a buck or a euro --there is a connection here with a number of
things mentioned in the Wikinomics book-- It seems to me this is not
that much different than, say, a struggling musician who wants to make
his or her music known.
Smart musicians these days publish some of their musical tracks for
free on the internet, on places like MySpace or whatever -- I would
have to ask my teenage daughter which sites are the most popular.
Anyway, giving away your music for free is like free advertising.
Eventually these musicians, if they are truly good, gain an audience.
Then they can start selling their CDs for money. It is a certain fact
that many of these artists would have *never* become known if internet
communities like MySpace did not exist. Never ever.
A point made clear in Wikinomics is that "open sourcing" some of your
work --no matter what it is-- can always be viewed as good publicity,
good corporate or community citizenship, and so on ... Eventually
people say, "Hey, I like this group's work! It's very good. Sure,
I'll by his CD!"
Is the case for fonts as artistic creations really any different? I
should think not. An independent typographer gives some of his stuff
away for free under whatever license he or she feels is appropriate.
Maybe he or she tries to hook up and get some publicity on a big
commercial site like MyFonts.com. Maybe he or she decides to release
fonts under a dual license -- free for non-commercial use, but please
pay me if you are a commercial entity and want to use my fonts in a
book or magazine. Eventually he or she gains a positive reputation in
the community, and then the business can take off based on referrals,
custom work, some commercial releases, etc.
> There is a contradiction in your business model, though. You cannot use
> Open Source to reduce your costs and avoid the value of your own work
> being reduced by Open Source.
I have to disagree with this statement! To the contrary, I think that
it *is* quite possible to use Open Source to reduce your "advertising"
and "publicity" costs -- and you can still sell your work for some
money too. Not the over-priced prices that a MS or Adobe charge, but
for something that is more realistic in a market where many more
things are now commodities. And you can end up making more money than
you ever would have if you had decided to never "open source" some of
That Open Source community is very likely exactly the ticket to get
you name recognition and market share without having a big advertising
budget. So in the end, if you are good, sure you can make even more
money than you ever could in the old world before the internet was
here. But I think you have to really think through your business
> > copyright is very important for me as a (type-)designer. without respect for copyrights, there is no
> > type-business; if people use my work and i don't get anything for it, my business breaks. when i try
> > to talk about copyright and licensing here, people come with the argument "but i can't afford that,
> > poor me blablabla"...
Personally, I very much like the business models that I see companies
like Trolltech and Codeweavers pursuing. Both of these are software
Trolltech makes QT, the GUI toolkit at the root of KDE. If you are a
FLOSS developer creating FLOSS products, you can just go and download
the Open Source version of QT under the "QPL" or "GPL" license. But
if you are developing commercial software, then you have to pay for a
commercial license for what is, essentially, the very same product.
With the commercial license, you also get support. And QT is doing
very, very well in both the commercial and FLOSS worlds.
My second example, Codeweavers, enhances the Open Source Wine
libraries so that one can run Windows programs under Linux and other
systems. This is not emulation like VMWare. Rather Wine actually
reimplements core Windows DLLs to work on Linux. Then the Windows
software just uses the Linux Wine DLLs and has no clue that it is not
on Windows. Codeweavers charges for their product and --I can tell
you from personal experience-- it is well worth it. It is well worth
it because they provide very easy to use GUI installers and
installation scripts, and they provide support too. Whereas the pure
Open Source Wine is somewhat of a pain to set up and install
correctly, the CodeWeavers version is a peice of cake. And as
CodeWeavers makes improvements to Wine, they return their improvements
back into the Open Source project. So the improvements they make
benefit both their business and the FLOSS community too.
> > hard work for free, 3. have people using my fonts and liking it, maybe so much
>> that they will consider paying for their full versions.
Personally I like the dual-license model that Trolltech uses best. So
for fonts, this would say that if you want to use my font in a
commercial publication like a book or magazine or company literature,
please buy a license. The license gives you support -- notification
of updates, discounts on other fonts, etc. But if you are producing a
non-commercial work, then just download it for free.
Of course some people will abuse your largesse. But at the same time
some people will also pay you for your products.
> > as i was saying, the ofl is too permissive for me. the development costs for the sil or the gfs fonts are
> > paid, this is why they can allow modification, redistribution, selling etc. the designers who worked on
> > these fonts have been compensated through their salaries. but this is not the case of independent
> > designers
I Agree. And the GFS fonts and fonts like Gentium were designed for
specific community purposes. Yes, they are also artistically very
satisfying. But for a font like Gentium, I think the community
function takes primacy over the artistic function. So there is a
category of fonts like Gentium, Bitstream Vera, or WenQuanYi (A
Chinese bitmap font with massive coverage) where the OFL is the right
And then there is another category of fonts where the OFL is not the
right answer. And these will tend to be fonts that are designed for
artistic purposes, such as commercial graphic design and commercial
> If these people wish to use their fonts to build their reputation so
> they can get more work, they will benefit the more their fonts are used.
> Making the fonts Free, so they can be used by the widest number of
> people, will build their reputation more than trying to limit their use.
IMHO, I think the absolute *best* business model for an independent
type designer or independent small foundry would be a combination of
(1) "Open Source" some artistic fonts under a license such as
Gustavo suggests in order to gain exposure, free advertising, and a
foot in the door of the FLOSS and commercial typographic communities.
(2) At the same time also contribute or donate some of your
typographic design expertise to one or more OFL-style projects that
really need it. That is, help out by adding or improving some of the
glyphs in one of the SIL fonts, or in WenQuanYi, or in the GFS fonts,
or in some other OFL'ed project that is likely to sprout up in the
next couple of years. Or donate some of your time to help get the
OFLB site or other typographically-centered FLOSS community sites up
(3) Set up a nice web site with PayPal and sell your fonts too.
Dual-license them as appropriate.
(4) Try to get interviewed on MyFonts.com or some other
typography-centered site to help build you or your foundry's
(5) If you live in a country like the USA, don't forget to consult
your tax man about how to get the most out of your charitable
contributions to the community.
Just my 2-cents -- Ed
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