Watch Neil Gaiman Read His Whole Latest Book Online For Free... And Note That It's Still A Best Seller

from the yeah,-but,-free-doesn't-work dept

Famed author Neil Gaiman certainly is no stranger to embracing the economics of free infinite goods to help sell more not-free scarce goods. Richard now points us to yet another way that's working for Gaiman. In a new blog post about a just completed book tour for his new children's book, The Graveyard Book, Gaiman notes two interesting points. First, during the book tour, at each stop he read a different chapter of the book outloud -- and each of those stops was filmed and put online. So, as he notes: "For now, the whole book is up online for free and I have no plans to take it down."

At the same time (or, actually, just before that), he also mentions that the book is number one on the NY Times' bestsellers' list for children's books. As Richard notes, this seems to fit the model we discuss all the time: "Give away a transient copy in one medium, while selling lots and lots of copies in another, more natural and permanent medium? Who'd have thought that would work...?" Indeed.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    Ppitstop, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 4:41am

    Free delivery

    giving it away for free works as it engenders interest. People want a jesus phone to keep up with the jones'

     

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  2.  
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    Lonnie E. Holder, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 5:21am

    Non sequitur

    Just because it worked once, twice, or even a thousand times, does not mean it is a universal. There are dozens of ifs, ands or buts associated with these things. I can give away hot dogs in Sam's Club and people will still buy hotdogs. The two acts are not necessarily related.

    What if the author is only interested in print medium? Obviously, you cannot force someone to do something they do not want to do.

    What if the work is not amenable to other outlets? I can just see the thrill of someone reading their book on the internet when it is about cosmology.

    A lot depends on the target audience. I suspect computer literacy and access may be a factor, as well as portability. I can just see dad curled up in bed with his child reading listening to Neil Gaiman reading his book. Again, just because he's reading it for free means nothing. I do not have time to listen to Neil read his book on the internet. I can read much faster and dealing with the computer is a pain. Indeed, I have only read (thus far) one book on the internet, and that is Boldrin and Levine's book. I find it a major annoyance. But then again, I am an old guy.

     

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  3.  
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    Ima Fish, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 5:29am

    "At the same time (or, actually, just before that), he also mentions that the book is number one on the NY Times' bestsellers' list for children's books."

    That's true of music and movie piracy. The most pirated content is always the best selling content, which completely contradicts the argument that piracy hurts sales.

    Music sales are down, but it's because the music industry is in a huge creative lull. We've experienced this before, but never for so long. Read the real reason the music industry is in decline here.

     

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  4.  
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    John Doe, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 5:52am

    We must examine cause and effect here. Seems it hit the best seller list before the book was put online. I am guessing that book sales are at their greatest in the first few months of the book when interest is at its highest. After that, sales probably wane. So giving the book away online after it is already generating heavy sales doesn't hurt. In short, giving the book away online did not cause it to be a best seller, it was that already.

     

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  5.  
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    Lonnie E. Holder, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 6:05am

    Re:

    John:

    I think you are right. Because relatively few people give stuff away on the internet who also make a living at selling the same stuff (I am assuming this because it seems like every time it happens, people on this website send up rockets), it still generates fascination and sales.

    What would be interesting is to see what happens when it is no longer a novelty or when the online content is released at the same time as print edition.

     

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  6.  
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    hegemon13, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 6:11am

    Re: Non sequitur

    "Just because it worked once, twice, or even a thousand times, does not mean it is a universal."

    Nor is the current system even remotely universal. Very few authors make a living from writing alone.

    "What if the author is only interested in print medium? Obviously, you cannot force someone to do something they do not want to do."

    You're right. You can, as they see, lead a horse to water.... However, the same could be said about an author who is not interested in book tours or interviews or marketing. No one is forcing anyone into anything, but if an author wants to sell lots of copies, there are certain activities that are a good idea.

    "...I have only read (thus far) one book on the internet...I find it a major annoyance."

    Exactly. You've just unwittingly agreed with the article. The book online provides and unlimited sampling, but it is no substitute for an actual book. So, those who start it online and like it are likely to buy the print copy.

     

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  7.  
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    hegemon13, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 6:14am

    Re: Re:

    Sticking the text file online may not be a novelty for long, but hearing the author do his own reading recorded in front of a live audience will always be a unique experience. What a wonderful way to reach out to fans.

     

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  8.  
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    Lonnie E. Holder, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 6:18am

    Re: Re: Non sequitur

    I defer to the Nobel prize winning economist (oh my Lord, an actual, as opposed to amateur, economist) Paul Krugman, who states:

    "Now, the strategy of giving intellectual property away so that people will buy your paraphernalia won’t work equally well for everything."

    See:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/06/opinion/06krugman.html

     

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  9.  
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    Lonnie E. Holder, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 6:21am

    Re: Re: Re:

    hegemon13:

    You may well be right. Economist Paul Krugman said that the internet may well spell the death knell for the publishing industry, and authors might well make their "real" money from live readings of their works. Interesting concept...I will take the books, please.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/06/opinion/06krugman.html

     

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  10.  
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    hegemon13, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 8:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Non sequitur

    "Now, the strategy of giving intellectual property away so that people will buy your paraphernalia won’t work equally well for everything."

    You might try actually reading my reply. I never claimed that it would. What I said is that the current system offers no guarantee, either. I was pointing out that saying that this new idea is not "universal" means nothing. Success is never universal.

    On the other hand, I think that books are one of the things this strategy will work best for. I read a lot, and there is no way that I would take an electronic book over a printed one. However, I would preview a portion of the book electronically to judge whether I am interested in reading the whole thing.

     

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  11.  
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    hegemon13, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 8:24am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    He may say that, but I don't think that his prediction takes the audience into account. Readers of fiction are a pretty niche audience compared to the audiences for movies and music. The reading audience likes its books. I work on a technical writing team, so most of my co-workers are avid readers. They are also computer literate and technology oriented. However, not one of them thinks ebooks are a suitable replacement for the experience of reading a physical book.

    There are certainly some who will defect, but there are many more, I think, that enjoy the overall experience of reading a book too much to go electronic.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 8:24am

    for years the newest Honor Herrington books would come with a cd that had a PDF of the author's collected works. the idea was (and it seems to have worked from what I've seen) that people wouldn't like reading it on the computer, but would like the stories and so go out and buy the books.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 8:27am

    Re:

    "That's true of music and movie piracy. The most pirated content is always the best selling content, which completely contradicts the argument that piracy hurts sales."

    Nonsense, it just shows that pirates like the same music as people who buy it legally. There's a certain type of music/artist that is most popular, and it'll be the most listened to, regardless of how it is obtained.

    Does piracy hurt sales? I'm not really sure one way or the other, but your point certainly doesn't show that it doesn't.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Lonnie E. Holder, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 8:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Non sequitur

    What I wonder is what will happen as the younger generations, accustomed to using compters, grows up. Will books go out of fashion? We will eventually do everything electronically?

    I tend to read reviews before I buy a book, though I have read an excerpt and not purchased a book because the excerpt was boring.

     

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  15.  
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    Lonnie E. Holder, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 8:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    hegemon13:

    You may be correct regarding the current generation, but I wonder what will happen as younger generations, even more accustomed to computers and electronic devices, grows up? Is Kindle a fad or the wave of the future. I do not have sufficient knowledge or related experiences to argue either way.

    Incidentally, I still do not do well with fiction on the computer. I like my books - which is more evidence that your point has merit.

     

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  16.  
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    DarkDancer, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 9:07am

    Baen Free Library

    For anyone who is interested in how things go with free books on-line, read this take from an author.... http://www.baen.com/library/

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    hegemon13, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 11:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I am a bit nervous for the future of books, as well, but I am a part of the young generation, as are many of my coworkers. It is my children's generation, who won't remember life before iPods, who may really change the face of reading.

    Then again, it seems to me that Kindle is a solution looking for a problem. A book is reasonably portable, requires no power, is comfortable to read, is extremely durable, and is cheap. A Kindle is fragile and expensive, uncomfortable to read, requires power to use, and is thus less portable. The only advantage it has, as far as I can tell, is the ability to store a whole library. However, books consume many hours, or even days of our lives, not just minutes or a couple hours. Where it might make sense to carry a library of music, or even movies, the need for a portable library of books is pretty limited, and it certainly does not outweigh the cons of a Kindle for a regular reader.

    And, dang it, what about that new book smell? Or old book smell? That's just something a device can't recreate. I just hope my children feel the same way.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Lonnie E. Holder, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 1:56pm

    Re: Baen Free Library

    DarkDancer:

    Well, technically he's an editor, and the link says the free library is an experiment, so we do not yet know "how things go with free books on-line."

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Re: Baen Free Library

    Eric Flint is an author with extensive published works. He also pointed out in his foreword regarding the baen library that he has noticed an immediate response after putting up books.

    one could easily begin to wonder if you are actually reading the replies before offering a cookie cutter response. No one here is saying it will work for everyone, but the same is true about today's methods, people are only saying that it is a viable alternative that can work.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Sos, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 4:03pm

    Is this valuable or even 'free'?

    Putting a video of a reading of the book online is hardly "making the book free". The value of a childrens book is either having the child read or reading the book with the child. So is this online read version of the book valuable as a book or valuable as a promotional tool? I quote this article on, interestly, the 'free' distribution of another of Neil Gaimans titles 'Neverwhere'. No, Mr. Gaiman—in this case, "free" is most emphatically not free. "Free" is downloadable in an unrestricted format and yours to keep forever. Downloadable in a format only readable on full-sized computer screens and expiring after thirty days is nowhere near that. It may not cost financially, but the cost in annoyance at its restrictions is far too much to pay.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 6:26pm

    Re: Is this valuable or even 'free'?

    Sos said:

    Putting a video of a reading of the book online is hardly "making the book free". The value of a childrens book...

    Which is, of course, the whole point. Giving away a non-scarce good can actually increase the demand for the scarce good. And the scarce good is where you make your money.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Lonnie E. Holder, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 7:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Baen Free Library

    Sorry...I neglected to go past his role as editor at Baen books. You are correct, his is an author and and editor.

    If you count the "immediate response" as the six e-mails he received, well then I guess you are correct.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Lonnie E. Holder, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 7:26pm

    Re: Re: Is this valuable or even 'free'?

    I missed something. What is the "non-scarce" good and what is the "scarce" good?

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Sos, Oct 13th, 2008 @ 7:42pm

    Re: Re: Is this valuable or even 'free'?

    Yeah I see that, but the model starts to get a little fuzzy when you count marketing and promotional activities in the infinite goods basket. The whole point of marketing and promotion is to sell your goods. The online reading really isnt useful apart from giving the consumer an impression of the book - which in the end equates to advertising.

    How is this any different to say what radio is to music? Radio is free, it creates demand for people to buy more music.

    If the author posted the book in PDF format for free then that would have been something to blog about...

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Lonnie E. Holder, Oct 14th, 2008 @ 5:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Is this valuable or even 'free'?

    Absolutely. Reading your stuff anywhere (except audio tapes or CD's you can play on your car radio) is a limited access medium because most people can read 6 times or more faster than someone can read to them. Further, a "reading" format (being read to) has limited portability, unless you have taken the time to download to your iPod or other similar device.

    You hit a home run with the PDF comment as well.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2008 @ 6:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Is this valuable or even 'free'?

    there are lots of authors who have given their works out as PDFs, not hard to find at all. Apart from the Baen Library there are many individual authors like http://thepiratesdilemma.com/ and the honor herrington series, If i was at home I could list many links where authors are giving away their books in e-format and all of them are getting good sales from their book.

    this blog has many post about authors who have provided e-versions of their book, this article is noteworthy because it is unique, author's provided the ebook is started to be relatively common place.

     

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  27.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Oct 14th, 2008 @ 9:47am

    Re: Re: Re: Is this valuable or even 'free'?

    I missed something. What is the "non-scarce" good and what is the "scarce" good?

    Non-scarce good is a video or audio recording. It can be copied at no cost. Scarce good is the physical book.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Jessie, Jan 31st, 2009 @ 1:51pm

    Where

    ok where do i get this from?

     

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