Another Author Notes That Giving Away His Book Increased Sales

from the piracy? dept

Dave points us to a recent interview with Lester Brown, who's been pushing for alternative energy for years. I'd actually heard about his book, Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization a few months ago when someone pointed out that he was giving away his book for free, but I hadn't heard much more about it. Yet, in the interview, he mentions that the book can be downloaded, which appears to surprise the interviewer, who seems to assume that this means the guy is willing to give up revenue to get his ideas out there by noting "you do feel strongly about this." But then Brown points out that it's not hurting sales at all, but quite the opposite:
Dr. BROWN: No problem. Incidentally, "Plan B 4.0" is online at It can be downloaded free of charge.

FLATOW: No kidding.

Dr. BROWN: Yeah.

FLATOW: Wow. You do feel strongly about this.

Dr. BROWN: Yeah. And it's interesting, people think this must reduce sales. In fact, it increases sales.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. BROWN: Just between the two of us
Of course, this is hardly the first author to recognize this, but add another one to the pile. It's about recognizing that obscurity is a bigger risk that piracy, and then figuring out how to get more attention and then giving people a real reason to buy on top of that attention.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Dig Meup, Oct 6th, 2009 @ 7:26pm

    Considering that most people are not comfortable to read a full book online (or on their computer), giving it away online is almost like a sample or a trailer. If they like the first little bit, they will read it.

    He would probably get the same effect giving away the first chapter.

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 6th, 2009 @ 7:52pm

    Seems possible some effect similar to those described in the economics article earlier could be at work in situations like these as well. The naive assumption is that no-cost access to the book online automatically means people won't pay for a printed version, ever, so they must be forced to pay. In me at least, this triggers an "is this really worth it?" thought process that quite often results in an answer of "no, not really". Being able to experience the book fully may lead to "wow, this is really good. I want a copy on my bookshelf for quick reference. And I'll grab a few more copies to give as gifts too", along with the good feeling that comes from promoting an author that deserves recognition. Or buying a hardcopy in appreciation for a real benefit the free online version provided.

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

  3. icon
    Overcast (profile), Oct 6th, 2009 @ 8:22pm

    Umm, let's not read into this any further than it needs to be - this is making a point - so let's not interject religion here..

    But the 'best selling book of all time' - the Bible; can be found free just about anywhere.

    And in that whole list of top selling books - you'll also find the Quran and Book of Mormon - both of which are bascially free for the asking.

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

  4. icon
    Mark Love (profile), Oct 6th, 2009 @ 11:18pm

    Free books increase sales

    For an ongoing experiment on this, check out the Baen free library. In essence, the results seem to show that the more you give away, the more you sell.

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

  5. identicon
    ABG, Oct 7th, 2009 @ 2:19am

    Great idea but...

    I went to the website and can't see the free download. Unless its a really short book (12 pages) the PDF's look like extracts or associated papers?

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

  6. identicon
    Paul Renault, Oct 7th, 2009 @ 3:48am

    See here, right where it says "Entire Book":

    The problem is that the PDF is formatted as a two-page-per-page document, which makes it almost totally useless for an e-reader. Sigh. I'll have to see if there's an easy way to reformat it...

    BTW, the MP3 files (the preface and introduction) are just barely audible in a quiet room. Note, audible, not listenable..

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 7th, 2009 @ 4:32am

    To be honest, I have no desire to read a book off of a screen. I prefer the real thing. That said, if I read the first chapter on my computer, and like it, I will probably go buy the physical book.

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

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 7th, 2009 @ 5:12am

    Think blender movies.

    they are all released free but people still buy the dvds and bluerays.

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

  9. identicon
    RJK, Oct 7th, 2009 @ 7:36am

    Re: Great idea but...

    For the person who can't find the book for free downloading:

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

  10. icon
    Almost Anonymous (profile), Oct 7th, 2009 @ 8:57am

    Before and after

    It's about recognizing that obscurity is a bigger risk that piracy...

    Before they are "famous", this is true. It's much better to get your stuff out their, get it read, build up a fan-base. But what about after? I'm afraid the tendency will be to back away from those ideas that got your name out there in the first place, and begin beating the Infringement Drum (tm).

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

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