Reading optimism

A Restless Art has been available as a free PDF, as well as in print, since January 2019, for reasons explained on the download page. A couple of days ago I noticed that there’d been about 20 downloads on a single day. That surprised me, so I checked back and worked out that there have been a total of 27,307 downloads (18.546 English and 8,761 Portuguese) since 2019. For context, the print version has sold fewer than 2,000 copies in English (I don’t have figures for the Portuguese text).

On the face of it, it’s a vindication of open access publishing, ensuring that the book is available to far more people than can buy a physical copy. But perhaps that’s too optimistic. After all, it takes no effort to download a PDF, but reading it is something else. My computer is full of articles I’ve saved with good intentions but never found time to read. Perhaps there’s more incentive to read a book that’s sitting on your desk and cost a bit.

Whatever the truth, I’m happy that people thought they wanted to read my work, even if they didn’t finally get to it, or just read the parts that mattered to them (I’m relaxed about not finishing books). A Restless Art was written for a readership of younger artists and students working in participatory art. It wasn’t intended to be controversial, though that’s never in the author’s control. But I think that A Selfless Art will be different if it eventually becomes a book—more personal and less compromising, it will probably divide opinion even within the community art field. But at least it will still be a free download so that readers can make up their own minds.


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