People donating products to an Oxfam store in Manchester recently, were asked to record a short
story into a microphone, relating to the product. Then in a collaboration with a company called Totem ((Tales of
things and electronic memory) the audio clips were then uploaded by some technical witchcraft I can’t even begin to
explain so that store browsers could access them via their smartphones or a bespoke RFID reader (No I don’t know
what one is either!).
Anyway the bottom line, irrespective of the technology is that you
can go into the store, look at a product and hear a story about it from the original owner.
I think this has great potential for anyone selling used or
secondhand products. No real need for technicalities here. Imagine if each item had a written (You know, good
old fashioned words on a bit of paper) story about the product. Wouldn’t that make it more desirable or
saleable? I think that it would.
Public Domain Profits
I’ve been talking to our old friend Avril Harper who, as many of you
know is an eBay powerseller and is a big fan of public domain goodies. I asked Avril for some quick how-to
advice for members…
The public domain is a source of creative works that are no longer
protected by copyright, usually because copyright has expired and sometimes because copyright never existed
at all. The end result is these items are yours to pick and choose from, turn into your own unique products –
copyright protected to you and you alone – and you can sell as many copies as you like at whatever price you
Of course, there are rules and regulations covering what is and what
is not in the public domain and those rules vary by creative type (song, books, film, etc.), and also by
country of original publication. Important though this is, I don’t want to waste time talking about rules and
regulations surrounding the public domain; all that stuff is easy to learn and you’ll find most of it already
covered online (www.wikipedia.org is the best place to start looking). What I really want you to do right now
is to consider a few easy ways to make money selling these items.
Reprint text and illustrations ‘as is’ and convert to a downloadable
format. This involves laying out pages as they were in the original format, by scanning, for example, or by
re-keying an exact copy of the document. Subsequently, you turn the document into a PDF or another ebook
format. Arguably, this change from print to digital copy is sufficient to make your product what’s known as a
copyright protected derivative work. Make your product unique by designing your own front cover or by using a
different font, adding a few illustrations, creating a contents sheet or adding a few illustrations where
none existed before.
Note that some of the biggest public domain resource sites provide
public domain works as ready to download text. Go to your preferred location – Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org)
is many people’s favourite – choose your title, download and add the text to a newly opened word document,
choose your own font and size, repaginate the text so that all chapters begin on a new page, and so on. Be
sure to follow whatever rules exist at any public domain site such as Gutenberg.
Update a product from the public domain or adapt it to suit another
market. You could translate a book into another language, for example, or reprint it in a large font to
benefit readers with compromised vision. Or you could update the product, add to it, or paraphrase the entire
text to make it more appealing to younger or older readers. You could use the old product as a base from
which to grow your own book, in which case you might paraphrase pages, line by line, turning the original
author’s words and terminology into your own unique way of communicating.
Many very early texts, from the mid 1800s and earlier, contain
excellent content, but are difficult to read because of archaic language and strange spellings used in
earlier times. There’s plenty of scope to rewrite these books into modern English, involving just a little
extra work that deters many people and so you can be the one to make the money from it!
Combine several books from the public domain, in part or complete,
into your own unique product. So your book, The World’s 1001 Best Chocolate Cake Recipes, might include the
most attractive and tastiest chocolate cakes from dozens of early publications. There are two main benefits
for the publisher here, one being the very remote chance that anyone else will choose the exact same recipes
from the public domain for their new publications, so making your product unique. The other advantage, in
this case focusing on food, is one of allowing you to choose recipes for which ingredients are readily
available, and dismiss any which may be inappropriate today, because they are considered unhealthy, for
example, or ingredients are not universally acceptable (whale fat, hog’s head, blackbirds’ tongues,
You might also look at burning your ebooks on CD. This makes it
easier for potential buyers who want your books but are unfamiliar with downloading or have a slow connection
or who simply prefer physical products. It’s always a good idea to provide as many product formats as
possible and optimise your market potential.
Offer different media types and increase the perceived value of your
products. Downloadable ebooks and email attachments often have low perceived value, largely due to
unprofessional entrepreneurs caring little about the content or presentation of those products. EBay has
banned down downloadable items because of this. So avoid purely downloadable and email attached products –
use a print or CD format where possible or, better still, as a combination of downloadable ebook and back- up
You can recreate collections of products on CD or DVD. These
collections can focus on specific subjects or titles can be entirely unrelated as, for example, 100 Magic
eBooks and 2001 All Subject eBooks respectively. Generally speaking, specific theme collections are more in
demand and attract higher prices than general collections comprising huge numbers of titles about many
different subjects. And consider adding in other items. Public domain is not just about books. Creative works
from the public domain can be turned into countless different products, such as prints for
Avril Harper is a UK business writer and eBay powerseller who writes
extensively about the public domain. Avril also uses public domain titles for many of the CDs she promotes on
the eBay sites. More from Avril soon.