letters to surfers

why do you publish on the web, instead of in hard copy?

by robert brow

Dear R.,

I did half a dozen books which were published "as usual" on paper. One of these on Religion: Origins and Ideas sold 20,000 copies in Britain, but it was canned as too radical by the American publishers. Another book, The Church: An Organic Picture of its Life and Mission was published by Eerdmans, but they never even put it in their catalogue and it died soon after birth. Christianity Today refused to review two other books, Go Make Learners (which people tell me was the best I have written) and Unbounded Love: A Good News Theology for the 21st Century (written jointly with Clark Pinnock). Without a review, the books never get a hearing, and they get remaindered (sold off as junk) within a year.

I tried to get two or three publishers to look at God of Many Names and Adultery: An Exploration of Love and Marriage (written jointly with my wife Mollie), but they rejected them without saying that they were too radical for their constituency. So now I put my work straight on the web site (http://www.brow.on.ca/) for all to read. This saves weeks of correspondence and editing with publishers, the material gets a hearing immediately, and I can make corrections from feedback as I go along.

The Canadian National Library Digital Archives, who also put the books on their web site, tell me I get an average of 300 accesses to the books every month. And the personal responses I get just about every day by e-mail encourage and vitalize me to keep writing. As more and more people all over the world (millions every year) begin accessing the web sites and find they can get what they need for nothing, I hope what I write will be useful. And nobody can remainder it.

People ask about copyright, but at my age I don't need academic recognition. My one aim is to get the ideas out, discussed, and hopefully corrected by feedback from all over the world. So I tell people that they can download, copy, adapt, and use anything they like in any form without my permission. Since the material is in digital form the editor of a parish magazine in England can put in the copy as is for printing. Bible Study groups print out a whole book for discussion chapter by chapter. But, best of all, the material can be read secretly in countries which are otherwise closed to Christian literature.


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