Opening the Vaults

Today I have decided to begin offering free PDFs of all the maps that I sell prints of.

There’s a fine line that a lot of people walk when putting their art online. You want people to be able to see (or hear) your work, but you also want to maintain some control over your intellectual property so that people don’t go passing it off as their own or profiting from it while you see nothing. And, if you’re selling something, why would people pay you for it if they can get it free? But, then again, people are less likely to buy when you only share a sample of your work — they can’t be wholly sure of what they’re getting until they’ve handed over their money. And so the arguments go back and forth.

Setting aside my fears, and feeling filled with a bit of faith in humanity, I have decided to embrace openness in the belief that the positive will outweigh the negative, that most people will not harm me, and they will be offset by those who will be kind to me. I have seen it work for others (though, it should be noted, that success stories tend to circulate; artists who are harmed by this model probably don’t get a lot of press).

If you click the link near the top of the page that says “Storefront,” you can see a PDF of any of the works that I’m selling at any level of detail you want. If you want to download the PDF and pay nothing, so be it. If you wish, though, you can also voluntarily donate to me via PayPal based on what you think my work is worth (and what you can afford). So, if you’d like to just print the map yourself and pay me directly, rather than ordering through Zazzle, now this is easy to do. Or if you’d like to print the map off and pay me nothing, that’s fine, too.

I also dreamed once of my river maps having some sort of educational use, so putting them out there free may encourage that far-off dream, as well.

I admittedly have little to lose from this — I rarely sell prints, and I am making these for my own satisfaction first and foremost. I’m slowly generating an atlas, and while I may offer copies of it to interested purchasers, I’m mostly doing it because I want to be able to hold a book of maps in my hand and know that I made them all.

But I’m also doing this because I’m secretly an idealist (with all the inherent irrationality), and I find the notion of a world in which people pay what they want for art to be attractive. Others have gone down this path, and I thought it was time I tried it, as well.

Edit: Now with extra licensing! As per Marty’s suggestion below, I have marked the download links with a Creative Commons license, specifically the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

4 thoughts on “Opening the Vaults

  1. I strongly encourage labelling things with a Creative Commons license. A noncommercial/no deriv/attribution license makes things worry-free for people to share, while clearly outlining what sorts of uses aren’t allowed.

    When it comes to maps, I just don’t think there are enough ‘rippers’ (people stealing works and using them commercially) to worry about offering high-res (in this case scalable vector!) versions of the work. In fact, I’d argue that the ability to zoom in and pore over the details of the data is a fundamental part of having the map communicate what it needs to. I’d go so far as to say that the cartographer has an *obligation* to the cartographic/scientific/educational communities to offer adequately hi-res versions of their work (or at least, works done as a personal project).

    1. A fine idea. I may have to make some adjustments to the text in the corner. Fortunately, this probably only needs to go on the digital versions, not the print ones, because changing the print ones can be a hassle (I have to delete the old one, create a new product, and relink everything).


  2. I”m very glad you posted this, I had somehow missed the fact that the Chesapeake Bay one that was talked about in the comment thread (from the store opening in January, I think?) is now available. (Or did I somehow miss that it was available even then?) I bought one, thanks for doing that!

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