Publisher To Try Free Ad-Supported Book Online

from the an-experiment-of-sorts dept

While book publisher HarperCollins has done some odd things in trying to adjust to the internet age, at least it’s willing to experiment with new ideas. While the company was accused last year of trying to prevent the resale of pre-release review books by numbering them and keeping track of who had which books, it also surprised a lot of people by deciding to scan all of its own books, telling Google to leave them alone for its own scanning project. While it seemed a little odd that HarperCollins would spend so much of its own money to do what Google was willing to do for it, perhaps part of the explanation comes from the company’s willingness to experiment with different business models on its own. The latest, as pointed out by MIT’s Advertising Lab is an experiment where HarperCollins will put the entire contents of a book online for free — but with ads, along with an Amazon affiliate link for those who want to buy the hardcopy. It’s definitely an interesting experiment, though it’s tough to read too much into a single offering — especially since much of the traffic to the book will be generated by attention to this experiment, rather than the content itself. It appears to have some good things (HTML instead of annoying PDF) and some bad (you have to navigate a page at a time and some of the other navigation is weak). Still, it’s good to see this experiment happening, especially coming from a large publisher.

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Comments on “Publisher To Try Free Ad-Supported Book Online”

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Bix (user link) says:

It's been done

For a while now I’ve been reading the free books online at Baen books. I read quite a few while deployed in Afghanistan. Author Eric Flint has a great explanation for why it is available online for free on the Library page. An excerpt:
“We expect this Baen Free Library to make us money by selling books. How? As I said above, for the same reason that any kind of book distribution which provides free copies to people has always, throughout the history of publishing, eventually rebounded to the benefit of the author.”
It’s a great summation of the reasons to publish free books online.

Ray Trygstad (profile) says:

Re: It's been done

Not only do I read Baen books online, but when I go into a bookstore to buy books, I look for the Baen logos. This free book policy builds tremendous brand loyalty, and I know that the fact that Baen has published it means it’s probably a book I’ll enjoy reading. It’s a method that is making money for Baen, and it really works. And so far, it seems everyone wins–I get free books, and Baen gets my money when I buy books.

Josh Tomaino (user link) says:


I have to agree with Paul that the long reading on a computer monitor is not only scientifically proven to have long-term consequences, but can be a physical strain an energy drain as well. (yeah, that sounds good in my head ). The only real purpose that I have come to terms with in initiatives such as Google Print, is to help preserve our literature. It will forever be there.

But more importantly, I must add, as a student, the ability to search through books for quotes and supporting ideas has been made hundreds of times easier! Even if I have the book on my shelf, if I can find the book on Google Print, I will be much more willing to search through Google than flip pages. Even if I don’t have the book, I can search hundreds of books for what I need, and then buy it right off of

If HarperCollins’ project is a success, I hope other publishers follow in their footsteps. Even if it’s not on Google Print, I doubt pointing google to search through the URL wouldn’t yield a few helpful results- especially if the pages are in HTML format.

thecaptain says:

Re: Eye-Sore

Agreed, reading on an LCD is bad, and frankly not that comfortable. I associate certain environments with reading for pleasure (I’m a big reader) and sitting at my desk is NOT one of them.

However, that doesn’t mean e-books are bad. I love my palm, I have the Tungsten-E model (the first one) and with a third party screen dimmer, not only does the battery life go from 2-3 hours to 6 hours of reading, but its VERY easy on the eyes as well.

Add to that the convenience of being able to carry a huge virtual library with you (I have over a hundred e-books now on a flash card) and there’s ALMOST no going back to print!

The only reason I do is for books that are not available digitally (yet) or books in which I personally have no digital equivalent yet due to lack of funds.

rightnumberone (user link) says:

No Subject Given

Hmmmm …
Why doesn’t some smart publisher sign Stephen King (or Tom Clancy if King isn’t your cup ‘o tea) to produce his next book and GIVE IT AWAY FREE.
Only instead of just pages of text, the book contained advertisements subsidizing the cost of the book.
Why are books free of advertising? (Hint: Because publishers are stupid and are ignoring a captive audience and additional revenue stream.)
It makes books awfully expensive to be able to enjoy them with zero advertising.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: ??books awfully expensive??

I don’t know where in the world YOU are but books are pretty cheap around here. (USA)
$4.99 – $6.99 for a paperback edition of my favorite author’s latest seems like a really good deal.
On the other hand,
The gilt edged leather bound editions I buy for my permanent collection ARE expensive and rightfully so.

I would not trade price for advertising in a physical book but I love the idea behind this on-line book.

I will likely buy a paper copy even if I only read it on-line just to encourage the concept.

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