This question was posed to me by an incredulous business-minded faculty member who wondered exactly why I would spend my time and energy and creativity writing books and other intellectual property simply to give it away. “What motivation does anyone have to produce something that others can just take?” they asked.
I realized that person would not be convinced by arguments about writing as a professional responsibility or as an intellectual activity (for me it is both and thus they are worth my investment). I pulled out a presentation I had prepared to support some presentations on open education resources and showed them the slide that has pictures of the web pages where one can obtain my two books that have been published.
One the top, you see the page on my personal website where one can download my second book which I released under OER. It is also available on Lulu.com and Amazon. On the bottom, you see the page advertising my first book that was published through a traditional publisher.
From a professional perspective, each has been satisfying. I have heard from those who have read the books and who are using them as supplementary texts in their courses. The feedback from these readers is sitting in my notebook and will be incorporated into the second versions.
For the individual who questioned the financial rationale for writing OER, I had to point out that I have received far more money for my book that was released under Creative Commons than my book that was released through a publisher. The small compensation I have received from those who purchased hard or digital copies of my second book has been enough to pay for a nice dinner out for my family and me. The royalties from my first book are such a small percentage, that I have little hope of treating my family to dinner any time soon.
For me, a professional who writes for reasons other than financial, it only makes sense to write and release under Creative Commons or another open license. My work has a better chance of being seen and used and I have a better chance of getting some financial benefit.