Publishers Jumping On The Free Book Bandwagon (Somewhat, But Not Fully)

from the and-you-thought-free-was-evil... dept

For many, many years, Sci-Fi publisher Baen Books has offered free downloadable books, and has found it to be a good way to generate more interest and sales for its authors. It appears that many others are starting to realize this as well. We've recently seen unknown authors and best-selling authors both embrace the concept, while pointing out that obscurity is a much bigger threat to their writing than piracy. Now, it appears that other publishers are beginning to catch on. Sci-Fi publisher Tor is giving away free e-books (apparently with no DRM, either) and the NY Times is now reporting that HarperCollins has decided to start posting free e-books on its website (including a bunch by Paulo Coehlo, the best-selling author who encouraged people to download unauthorized versions of his books). Unfortunately, these "free" e-books are ridiculously limited. They'll only be online for a month -- and you can only view them with a web connection (no downloads allowed). On top of that, the print functionality will be blocked. This seems totally pointless. For most books, it costs more to print out a copy yourself than to just buy the actual book. It's nice to see some additional support for free books, but HarperCollins plans seem akin to the music industry's first forays into online music. That is, they're designed so that the company can say "look, we're doing something!" but are so locked up that very few people will actually be interested.


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  1.  
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    Corey, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 2:05pm

    Are you serious?

    You've been wanting thing for free - and here you've got something for free. How can you actually complain about this? You can go online and read as much of the book as you want before you purchase it, yet you want more?

    Maybe, just maybe, these companies have done their own research and know something you don't. Maybe this is away to generate more interest in their products, but they've found tat if they give away a file you can download, it may decrease some of their sales (it would certainly decrease ebook sales).

    And maybe they are looking at this long term - maybe as ebook readers get better and better - in 20 years that will be the predominant format - and it'll be much harder selling something that you've been giving away free for years. And no matter how much you want to tout your business models, with publishers books ARE the products - there are limited products/services you can tie to most books.

    You want free stuff and here you're getting it, but instead you bitch because they didn't adopt your business model 100%?

    It must be nice to be so much smarter then everyone else.

     

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    JohnC, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 2:29pm

    Yes, I think he is serious

    Corey, what is the purpose of content? In a sense, isn't it attention? Attention is what makes money. For physical books, attention means book sales. For digital books, it means traffic. And there are plenty of products/services you can tie to all traffic.

    As an example, let's say I publish book A with publisher B. They make A free. 20,000 people read it. I just gained an audience and B just gained traffic they may have not already received.

     

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    Dave S, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Are you serious?

    Two counterpoints here:

    1) If you're going to give something away "free", then do it for real. I'd much rather have a single chapter that I can download and read whenever, whereever, and however I choose instead of a full book that can only be read during a specific month, on an internet-connected computer, using software chosen by someone else.

    2) Check out the Baen Free Library link. Baen is a publishing company that makes its money selling books. They've tried making books available for download in formats of your choice with no DRM, keep it as long as you like, read it anywhere, connected or not. They've been doing this for a while and what do they know that you or I don't? Quoted directly from the linked Baen Free Library page, as written by the man behind the Free Library program:
    Earlier, I mentioned "two reasons" we were doing this, and stated that the first was what you might call a demonstration of principle. What's the second?

    Common sense, applied to the practical reality of commercial publishing. Or, if you prefer, the care and feeding of authors and publishers. Or, if you insist on a single word, profit.

    I will make no bones about it (and Jim [Baen], were he writing this, would be gleefully sucking out the marrow). 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.

     

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    4-80-sicks, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 2:55pm

    Hello Corey

    I know I got a bit rough last time, but I didn't mean to offend you.

    Anyway, maybe I know something these companies don't. And that is that I will not buy a book with DRM. I also know that I, and others, are absolutely willing to purchase ebooks, even if there are unrestricted free ones out there (sanctioned by the publisher or not). I will not purchase books with DRM. I might read a free, DRM'd book, but not if it uses certain things common to DRM.

    May I commend you for making a rational, reasoned, well-formed argument this time? I will.

    But I do still have an issue with your argument, specifically the notion that publishers can stop piracy and indefinitely protect the current business model (from which ebooks, as they currently stand, represent a very small change.) People should respect publishers, or writers if they can't do that. (After all, a writer without a publisher is still a writer and can still make his way; a publisher without a writer, not so much) But respect is a two way street. If the book industry tries to play this game the way the recording industry does, it's very possible they will encounter all the same problems.

    So, what should they do to avoid those problems? Well, I've got some ideas...please don't tell me you're not going to listen because they know things I don't and I'm not smarter than everyone--this is just friendly advice. No, I don't expect to change the book industry. But you're here in this forum discussing it, so why not engage. I absolutely would agree with education campaigns--but not the pandering, badgering kind the movie industry is using now. People don't truly love the movies they pirate, I think. Readers often really have that love, which is to your advantage.

    Honestly, I don't have any other ideas right now. I don't work for the book industry. But I think that love for books and reading and literature is the key. As I've said before, I was raised by a librarian. I recoil in horror when somebody folds back the cover of a book. I know better than to place a book on the shelf spine-up. I wouldn't pirate a book.

    Do you know what I mean?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 3:18pm

    Great for me because I only read ebooks. Usually on my DS or phone. My wife won't ever read ebooks though so if I read a good book for free that she will want to read it's going to generate a sale for them.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 3:28pm

    Re: Are you serious?

    Mike isn't actually bitching about anything. Mike is just pointing out that publishers won't get full benefit if they put these restrictions on these content.


    You seem damn sure that ebooks readers are the wave of the future. Sorry, despite being a technophile, programming computer geek, there is no way that I am going to replace these books with a damn PDA for that matter. Ebooks are hardly compelling now even with all these multimedia content. What you think make them compelling with ebook readers?

    We let you know(After all we're early adopters) when the ebook readers really arrive. Otherwise, stop thinking ebook readers will certainly be the revolution of the future.

     

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    Corey, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 3:28pm

    Re: Hello Corey

    You right, this is a forum and a place to discuss ideas - and I'm sure there are some good one revolving around free ebooks - my point was more that there are two sides to this (as with any type of file given away for free), and I think some people around here think that profits will increase for anything given away free and there will never ever be any negative effects, and that's where I disagree. Everything depends on the product.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 3:35pm

    Re: Re: Hello Corey

    Time to back up your statement.

    Give me a counterexample where giving away electronic copies of the book have a negative impact on book sales and links please.

     

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    Corey, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 3:41pm

    Re: Re: Are you serious?

    I just went to the Baen Free Library and I noticed that they are making SOME of there books available for free, not all of them. If a book isn't very profitable anymore, it may help expose the author to give it away for free, but you're not going to give away your biggest money makers for free when you can sell them.

    My point is free can be very beneficial when it means increasing your audience, but it doesn't always do that. I'll give two examples.

    #1) There's a biography of Pat Garrett (the man who killed Billy the Kid) written by Leon Metz. If you are interested in Pat Garrett or Billy the Kid history, you would have heard of this book. Its referenced and mentioned in countless other books, articles, and websites. Its the definitive Garrett biography. Giving it away for free won't increase the audience much, because this books audience has heard of the book.

    #2) Harry Potter - how much Harry Potter awareness increase if ebooks were given away for free when each was released. Probably not much, who hasn't heard of Harry Potter - but as ebook readers get better, books like that will easily lose sales if readers can download it for free. On the other hand, I'm sure a less successful series would benefit if the first book of the series was given away as a free ebook to promote the release of the second book.

    I never said that free never works, I just said that it doesn't ALWAYS work.

     

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    Corey, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 3:44pm

    Re: Yes, I think he is serious

    You're right and wrong. If a free ebook gets 20,000 new readers, then yes, it will help the author and publisher. If the ebook doesn't generate many new readers, but if some of the people who already have heard of the book download it for free instead of buy it, then the author and publisher lose - its a two way street.

     

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    Corey, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 3:47pm

    Re: Re: Are you serious?

    I'm not sure that ebooks are the future (I too like paper books), I'm just throwing it out there as a what if. I do know there are people who prefer ebooks and happily buy them. When you give them these books for free, you lose sales. Will the added exposure make up for those lost sales with new sales? I'd say if depends on the book, and the publisher should (and has the right to) make that determination before they decide what, if anything, to offer for free.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 3:48pm

    Re: Re: Re: Are you serious?

    The only problem is that they never actually use Mike's business model so we don't know the true effect. What you said is what you think will happen. It is a hypothesis, not a result.

    It may seem reasonable, but is it really true?

     

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    Corey, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 4:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Hello Corey

    There are plenty of unknown authors who give away free books and don't make any money - the problem with these examples is I'm guessing many of the just are not very good authors, and may not be making money for that reason.

    I don't have the sales statistics on every book out - but I think, and would hope, that most publishers are smart enough to know when giving away free ebooks would hurt their sales and as a result, don't give them away in such cases.

    You can't prove a negative - so few publishers have given away free ebooks that its not enough of a sample to judge the overall affect on the industry - if a book doesn't sell, is it because it was given away for free, or because its not very good? I would say look at CD sales as an example - as music piracy has increased, CD sales have gone down. I know Mike's argument is that's advertising for the live shows, etc., but that's a different topic, because with books, the content is the main product. If ebooks ever do take over - why would free ebooks not have the same affect on publishing as free music has had on CD sales?

     

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    Mark, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 4:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Are you serious?

    Please have a look round the free Library, in particular the Prime Palaver regarding the effect of giving a book away for free.

    More importantly one of Baens biggest best selling author is David Weber, and his best selling series is Honor Harrington.
    When the last Harrington was published in hardback, it contained a CD with every book that David Weber had with Baen, approx 44 books, including the hardback it was in and every book in the series. Every book was DRM free and in several different formats allowing you to choose how to read it, and all they asked you on the CD was not to sell copies,yes please give copies to your friends and anyone you know but please dont sell any.

    They have done this for other books / authors and a website http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/ holds copies for you to download.

    The reason they do this is it makes more money when people buy the paper versions, and is a prime example of making money from giving content for free.
    This is giving the latest book away for free

     

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    J.C. Hutchins, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 4:07pm

    It's about time.

    Yes, the DRM and crippleware installed on these free e-books is insulting to users -- not to mention a smack in the face of the "giving it away is OK" philosophy, which this is apparently promoting. But it's progress of a sort, and I'm grateful that the industry is finally smelling the proverbial coffee.

    Of course, hundreds of scrappy authors have been beating this drum for years, evangelizing the power of free online distribution in the interest of building zealous fans and demand for their works. I'm one of those authors -- I released my novels in a serialized audio podcast format, promoted it within the social media space, and acquired a worldwide audience of more than 35,000. It was only after this that my work was picked up by a mainstream publisher.

    Folks in the publishing industry can no longer ignore the power of the Web for not only finding new talent, but also promoting its products. Despite the current anti-copying/printing measures in place, I suspect we'll see much more of this in the future ... and it's about damned time.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 4:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Hello Corey

    AFAIK, in some cases, CD sales actually increase due to filesharing but I don't know if that is a causation or a correlation.

    You seem to think music "piracy" is the cause of CD sales going down, but I wonder if that is actually the causation.


    Free ebook does not have the same effect on books because books are in themselves valuable.

    There is no difference from the CD that I get and the digital musics I get from the internet. As far as I am concerned they're same product, the CD is just more expensive.

    However there is a difference between the books and ebooks. Since I value books, I still want to buy it.

     

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    Corey, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 4:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hello Corey

    I completely agree with you on the difference between music/CDs and books/ebooks. But the publishing industry has to be careful to look into the future - if they decide to give everything away in ebook format - and then ebook readers drastically improve and ebooks pass paper books in popularity - how does the industry go back to charging for something they've been giving away for free. Also, some types of books are more useful in ebook format (how many people buy encyclopedias anymore compared to 25 years ago?)

    I used the music example because the product you download is the same as on the CD, so there's a bigger sample to see the effect of downloading. What publishers have to figure out is what books have audiences that will buy the book - and what books would people be happy with the ebook. My guess would be that it largely depends on the type of book (and its audience) as to whether giving away the complete free ebook for download would help or hurt sales.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 4:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hello Corey

    What kind of audience would be NOT be more willing to buy books?


    Comic fans that read online strips for free still buy books.(You could say online comics is a prime example of Mike's business model)

    Your average computer programming geek still buy books.

    I bet your science fiction fans still buy books.

     

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    4-80-sicks, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 4:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Hello Corey

    as music piracy has increased, CD sales have gone down.

    This correlation is superficial and false. No surprise that it's used by the RIAA. (To quote Public Enemy: Don't believe the hype.) The number of albums produced anually has gone down, as labels throw more marketing muscle behind fewer artists and everything becomes more homogenized. If they would distribute those efforts more, perhaps more people would be interested in the lesser known artists (or 19th century western U.S. history, as the case may be--just trying to stay on topic here :-) ) This doesn't even get into the idea that the overall quality of music released by the big labels has gone down significantly. That is a pretty objective view and therefore doesn't make a good argument, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it had some effect.

    Will the added exposure make up for those lost sales with new sales?

    Not to say that companies shouldn't try to increase sales, but this game of looking at many small pictures doesn't really work. You win some and you lose some, and if publishers can't focus on the big picture, I think they will lose more. The tighter you hold water, the less you keep in your hand. So it is with markets. There are too many variables to point definitively and say "this one got more sales because of free digital copies, this one got less." Some people will be enriched by getting books without buying them when they weren't supposed to, but a great deal of them will return to buy a legit copy, or copies of other books they may not have otherwise considered. This has already been demonstrated in other industries. It's not worth spending a great deal of time in combat over this, because the resources spent on that, on massive campaigns, on lost good will, et cetera, will not be matched by "recovered" sales.

    I believe that judicious application of careful strategy utilizing the right ideas will definitely result in an overall increase. People are consuming and creating more content than ever before, and a hell of a lot of it has been paid for, despite other availability--again, sanctioned or not.

     

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    Nick (profile), Feb 11th, 2008 @ 5:18pm

    the new definition of free

    The new definition of "free" is DRM-free as well as free-as-in-beer. The restrictions on printing and the availability for a limited time are just other versions of DRM.

    It is true that it is cheaper to buy books than it is to print them. Against Intellectual Monopoly by Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine is a free to download/print/read book I was looking into printing at Kinkos, but it is going to cost $43 when the book will probably cost $25 in stores and $20 from Amazon when it comes out (thanks to someone who linked to it in the comments from a post a couple of months ago).

    Also newly available to to freely download/print/read is The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson.

    And finally, Neil Gaiman is deciding which of his books he should release as a free downlod.

     

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    Julianna, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 5:39pm

    Free beer free books God help us all

    As a writer, I wish the publishing co's weren't so eager to jump on the free book bandwagon. It only perpetuates a mentality of free beer for everyone and drives down the market value of books.

     

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    Corey, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 5:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hello Corey

    I didn't mean an audience won't buy books. But there are people out there perfectly happy to read ebooks. When they get these books for free, that is a lost sale. What publishers have to take into account is will the promotion from the free ebook make up for (or surpass) the sales lost. I don't think any of us know the answer for sure - My point was it would vary greatly from book to book. But I don't know and you don't know what the overall affect on the industry would be. Mike will pretend to know, but he has to, he has a vested interest - he needs to sell and convince people of his business model to generate website traffic and sell himself and his company as consultants. I would think the publishers, who have the most to gain or lose by this, have probably done the most research into the pros and cons. I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on that.

    And to Mike's original post - I still don't see the problem. This seems like a win-win situation. The readers win because they can preview the book before they buy it - or if they want to keep coming to the site and read the entire thing - and the publisher wins because they are not only promoting their product - but they are generating website traffic - now they can advertise other books and/or sell advertising space and generate revenue.

     

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    JohnC, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 5:58pm

    Re: Re: Yes, I think he is serious

    How many people would read 784 pages worth of Harry Potter in ebook form? Right now, not very many. In 5 years, with the latest technology and gadgets? I'd be willing to concede a modest percentage. But even if a modest percentage happened, the developments in ebooks will have progressed - to include more ways to get involved with the work (discussion sites), and yes, maybe even advertising. Plus, as others have pointed out, ebooks do not cannibalize books.

    At the same time, it doesn't matter. What we know now: revenue follows good content. What we do not know now: exact logistics.

     

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    JohnC, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 6:05pm

    Re: Free beer free books God help us all

    Of course the market value of books is going down. You can now get content from a thousand sources in a hundred different ways. As a writer, you should be one of the first to accept this new reality and go after an audience...isn't that why you write in the first place?

    But, if you do write for money-only, then take J.C.'s advice above and build an audience, to get accepted by a mass influencer (publisher), to reach a larger audience.

     

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    LanceR, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 6:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hello Corey

    "When they get these books for free, that is a lost sale."

    Absolutely false. This is the argument the BSA has been using for years about software piracy. A downloaded book/song/movie is not necessarily a lost sale. That person may have gone to the movie/bought the book/bought the album/ whatever... The actual negative effect on sales comes from true piracy, the mass marketing and resale of counterfeit items. Piracy on that level does hurt the market, because the person who buys a counterfeit product *would* have purchased the real thing.

    Let's compare apples to apples, shall we?

     

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    Corey, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 6:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hello Corey

    And lets pay attention to what I actually wrote, shall we?
    There are people who but ebooks - so when you give ebooks away for free, you will loses sales from people who would have bought them. You can't argue that - there are ebooks for sale - people do buy them - when the ebook is given away for free, those sales are lose.

    Te question was if those losses are made up for in other ways.

     

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    Corey, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 6:54pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hello Corey

    that should be "lost", not lose

    And just to clarify the software companies and my point - I never said they would ALL be lost sales, and neither did the software companies, but at the same time, you can't say that NONE of the people who took the product for free would have bought it. Some wouldn't have bought it if they couldn't get it for free, but some WOULD have - those are lost sales.

     

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    4-80-sicks, Feb 11th, 2008 @ 7:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hello Core

    Some wouldn't have bought it if they couldn't get it for free, but some WOULD have - those are lost sales.

    May I sing the refrain?
    There are going to be ebooks, and some of them are going to be free, whether the publishers and writers want them to or not. So, it is in their own best interest to accept it and deal with it, and even offer some for free. I know that some, like Corey, and possibly Julianna (if this is your first time here, welcome), don't feel this is always acceptable. Corey's standing example is that non-fictional history books about Jesse James and similar historical figures have already found their audience as much as possible. Even in that apparently extreme example, Corey, you are correct that one cannot say NONE of the people who took the product for free would have bought it, but neither is it correct to say NONE of the people who were unfamiliar prior to reading a free book can be turned into paying customers.

    As far as "lost sales" goes, why aren't those people going to the library, buying the book used or "reported as destroyed," or any number of other ways to read a book without the publisher directly profiting? The ebook may be easier to obtain, I admit, but you really can't count your chickens before they're hatched; and market forces do dictate that ebooks will increase in popularity; that some books be offered without charge; and that "piracy" may occur. It's up to you, or your publisher, to figure out how to cope with these phenomena. The world will not stay the same because you want it to. I could rattle off dozens of ways it has changed in which I wish it hadn't, some of which have had financial impact on me, but it is reality.

    Julianna, if you're so inclined, feel free to tell this forum a little about your books; who knows, you may even gain some new fans! Other people have certainly linked to their websites here with less substantial comments.

    One last: I use Google and gmail extensively. I appreciate that the ads are unobtrusive, and sometimes pay attention to them and visit the sites of the advertisers. Perhaps a similar idea could be implemented in ebooks? Far be it from me to tarnish the sanctity of books, but I don't feel that constitutes such a violation, especially compared to the hundreds of more obnoxious ads with which American adults are confronted daily.

     

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    Robb Hammack, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 7:41am

    Re: Are you serious?

    Corey, re your statment "I just went to the Baen Free Library and I noticed that they are making SOME of there books available for free, not all of them. If a book isn't very profitable anymore, it may help expose the author to give it away for free, but you're not going to give away your biggest money makers for free when you can sell them." - I think you'll find that in some (more than a couple) of cases, that's exactly what their doing - and making more money thereby. many of the books in the free library are placed there soon after they hit the bookstores- indeed, some of them were placed in the free library while still in hardcover, before the paperback release. also, you should look at www.webscription.net, baen's for sale ebooks, where you can buy books in your choice of formats, including text and html, with absolutely NO DRM of any kind, even BEFORE the book is published as a hardcover- in some cases nearly a year before release (look at E-ARC's). also, many hardcovers come with a free CD containing the book in electronic format, along with up to 40 other books, naerly all of which you'll find on the shelves at the bookstore - and you're encouraged to share the CD, just don't sell it.

    in short, Baen is giving away first-run books in many forms, and makng money by doing so.

     

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    Corey, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 9:02am

    Re: Re: Are you serious?

    Good for them. I don't think that goes against anything I've said. I've said some books would benefit when giving away the digital copies for free, and some would not (again, even your beloved Baen doesn't give away everything for free).

    Some books would benefit from the added exposure, and some books (when their market already knows about the book - or if their a book, like a reference book, that might be more useful in ebook format) would lose sales because of this.

    Again, the point is, when you give the book away for free, you lose sales from potential ebook customers. The question are those lost sales made up for by the added exposure. I'm trying to tell you (as an author with books published) that the benefit would vary from book to book.

     

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    Fernando, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 1:01pm

    The real reason to prohibit printing

    The reason they block the "print" operation is to keep you from printing using a "print-to-PDF" driver like CutePDF, which would let you create a non-restricted PDF file.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    'M', Feb 13th, 2008 @ 3:01am

    eBook readers - Have YOU tried one for size?

    Those gadgets are reviled by many: 'I'd get a headache reading from a tiny screen for an extended period', 'You can't take it to the bathtub', 'I'm a geek technophile and still I don't want to squint to read'...


    Have YOU (dear reader) tried using one of the available readers for extended periods? If so, how was it? Better than you hoped? Worse? Is it fair to have to buy one of the things without knowing if you'll like it or not?

    Mind you, I'm just curious about the future of the things.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    SomeGuy, Feb 13th, 2008 @ 5:39am

    Re: Are you serious?

    "Maybe, just maybe, these companies have done their own research and know something you don't."

    I love how Corey's argument always boils down to how other people MUST be smarter than him. It must be a blissful life, trusting that everyone knows better than you and, further, have the best interests of everyone involved at heart.

    I don't have the energy to argue today.

     

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  34.  
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    Corey, Feb 13th, 2008 @ 6:24am

    Re: Re: Are you serious?

    I never said they were smarter - if you'd stop taking things out of context, you'd know I said this. One person ca argue that giving away ebooks for free brings in more new sales then it costs, and someone else can argue that it costs more then it brings in. The publishers, who have the most to gain or lose by this, have no doubt actually RESEARCHED it.

    But I guess if you have such a blinding love for Mike's business model, those kinds of things don't matter - all you want is free and you'll use any old argument to defend it.

     

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  35.  
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    SomeGuy, Feb 13th, 2008 @ 6:41am

    Re: Re: Re: ... Hello Corey

    "When they get these books for free, that is a lost sale."

    There are a few assumptions to this. First, it assumes people are buying ebooks; I'll concede that maybe they are. Second, it assumes that people who buy ebooks are not then buying real books or, more to the point, people who READ ebooks are not buying real books. This may be the case. It also assumes the these buyers and readers are willing to put money up sight-unseen; this I'll dispute, at least in as much as the buyers and readers must know something about the book or the author if they're willing to be parted from their money.

    Now, if you're just looking at Guy1 who buys the ebook now, but would just as soon get it for free and not spend any money, then maybe you 'lost' a sale. But if he shows ONE friend and that friend, Guy2, who doesn't like ebooks, buys the REAL book, you just broke even. If Guy1 or Guy2 shows even one more person the content and that leads to a second sale, you're now up by one. I guarantee you that Guys 1, 2, and 3 have more than one friend each, and I posit that not all of them like ebooks, and at least some of them prefer real books -- and further, a number of them would not be interested in buying the content sight-unseen.

    So, rather than actually losing sales, I submit that the big picture will show a net gain in sales, even if a small number of those who did or did not buy would have been customers under some other, older model.

     

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  36.  
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    SomeGuy, Feb 13th, 2008 @ 6:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Are you serious?

    Corey, we've been through this: I don't just want free. in this case, I HATE reading on a computer screen. I'd even prefer to consume my news in other forms that blogs like TechDirt if they didn't offer me some great benefit -- such as discussing issues with fellows such as yourself. (I'm not being ironic or sniping here, I do appreciate our little arguments.)

    That being said, *I* doubt that publishers have researched this, so it's not "no doubt" that they have. I'm sure I'm not the only one who doubts this. But I also further doubt that, if the research has been done, that it's been interpreted properly -- I'm sure we can all recall some study or another which predicted X only to find that Y was the result in the real world. And *further*, I doubt that if the research was done AND the results properly interpreted, that that would necessarily make much of a difference. I don't believe that a publisher has everyone's best interests in mind and, as I said before, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, so why spend money and take on risk trying a new model when you can just sell ebooks directly?

    I don't trust them to do the research, I don't trust them to interpret the results, and I don't trust them to take appropriate actions, so until I can be shown otherwise I remain cynically skeptical.

    (I also don't mean to sound as heated as I do. As I said before, I don't have the energy to argue today, so I probably shouldn't be.)

     

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  37.  
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    SomeGuy, Feb 13th, 2008 @ 7:42am

    Re: Re: ... Re: Re: Hello Corey

    In short, you claim that some sales will be lost, and you're simply unsure 9or unconvinced) that those lost sales will be made up for (or exceeded) by new sales that WOULDN'T have been made without freely available content.

    In short, you're uncomfortable with the perceived risk, yes?

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 13th, 2008 @ 7:44am

    Re: The real reason to prohibit printing

    Which would be a non-issue if these were fully-free. What purpose does locking down the content serve?

     

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  39.  
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    Corey, Feb 13th, 2008 @ 7:57am

    Re: Re: Re: ... Re: Re: Hello Corey

    Its not the perceived risk, its that I don't believe it will in fact increase sales for all books. I think it depends on the book. I also believe in copyright law and think its the publisher's and author's right to determine what's best for them.

    They are in the business to make money - if they believe giving away the product will increase overall revenue, they'll do. There's already been examples of other publishers who give away free ebooks - if there sales of actual books takes off as fast as some die hard believers of Mike's business model believe, then they'll make a killing and other publishers will follow.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    Corey, Feb 13th, 2008 @ 7:58am

    Re: Re: The real reason to prohibit printing

    I would assume they lock down the content so they can still sell the ebook.

     

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  41.  
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    Instigator, Feb 13th, 2008 @ 2:11pm

    Re: Everything

    It seems that Corey does not have much help from others in this discussion in presenting his viewpoint. I think if others spoke up, or someone played Devil's Advocate (like SomeGuy or 4-80-sicks) we might be able to bring some further clarification to the subject.

    Also, if anyone knows where else this specific topic is being discussed on the net, it would be nice to point out as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    hyokon, Feb 17th, 2008 @ 10:15am

    Corey, you are not alone.

    But sorry for being late. I wrote something about this whole "Free" issue. Specifics may differ, but I want to say currently suggested 'free + alpha' model is not the ultimate business model. Here is the link.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Domenic Pappalardo, Feb 18th, 2008 @ 8:41am

    Free books sell books

    In December 2007, Zooty and Flappers set up a reader site for free down load of books in return for reader reports.
    You may see the site at www.zootyandflappers.com

     

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  44.  
    identicon
    Ray Trygstad, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 8:21am

    Tor has had free books for a while...

    I am currently reading a Tor science-fiction novel, Postsingular by Randy Rucker, on my Dell Axim PDA--where I do most of my reading thanks to Baen Books and Project Gutenberg. It was released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License. Now Tor may not have been as open about making their books free as Baen, but they certainly will allow their authors to make their books free. Also, both Tor and Del Rey, the other two major sci-fi publishers, have made books available as electronic versions with no DRM at Baen's Webscriptions site (http://www.webscription.net/).

     

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  45.  
    identicon
    Domenic Pappalardo, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 7:11pm

    Give your book away free..It sells books.

    I don't know why, but most writers feel their books are the best the world has ever seen..
    Give it away and build a following of readers. Your second book will make money, and the third, fourth, etc.
    Think about it. The system is proven by some big names.
    Domenic
    www.zootyandflappers.com

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    Tina Freeman, Mar 25th, 2008 @ 2:01pm

    my book

    i have got sot tired of try with my book i thought of selling it its a great childrens book called When The Moon Shines HELP

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Duncan Long, Jun 13th, 2008 @ 2:58pm

    free ebooks

    One viable model for free ebooks is already here, and it has worked well for Google, radio, broadcast TV, and some magazines. In these cases, "free" means ad-supported.

    My publishing company has been offering such "free" ebooks for less than a month now (through WOWIO) and the system works well for reader, publisher, and advertiser alike. I don't know that this will be THE future for ebooks, but it seem a viable one.

    http://duncanlong.com/e-books.html

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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