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Should Publishers Put Their Books Online for Free?

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5 Responses

  1. B.D. says:

    Help sales. Neil Gaiman was quoted in Boing Boing last week about this topic. In essence, he said that books throughout time have been loaned out via friends or borrowed via libraries and yet books continue to sell. It was his opinion that even if the person who got the loan did not buy that book s/he might decide that s/he would categorize the author as a good writer. Being remembered as a good author is never a bad thing for the writer. It might sell more books in the future.

  2. Orin Kerr says:

    It’s hard to know how it will play out, I think. Right now no one expects books to be posted online for free, so no one would decide not to buy on the expectation that they’ll be able to get a free copy. On the other hand, how many people who by books really care if they can get free electronic copies? You could always get a free copy from the library, but people buy books anyway.

    Very cool for the author, though: It increases the profile of the book and also makes it easier to cite (because others know they can find the copy online so easily).

  3. Well, not being in the book business, I can’t say what its effect will be on sales. Had your publishers given you any hint? Most certainly they have some numbers on this.

    Also I suppose your take would be different if writing books were your primary source of income.

    As a reader, I’m happy to have access to more books. But I won’t stop there. When Harvard announce that it was blazing the Open Access trail, I asked why academic publishing sites (such as SSRN) haven’t pushed articles to be conversation centers.

  4. Glenn says:

    As a young person practically raised by the Internet, I can hardly imagine living in a time when a free flow of information was not readily available. With that said, however, if I have serious reading I want to do, I’ll buy the book. I am looking forward to downloading ‘The Future of Reputation’ and looking over it, and I carry a copy of Seth Godin’s ‘Unleashing the Ideavirus’ on a thumb drive with me with the hopes of occasionally finding the time to read a few pages, but when all is said and done, I would much rather have a tangible copy sitting on my bookshelf.

    Considering the business aspect of allowing a work to be downloaded for free, meanwhile, I must agree with Kerr — such a policy would ostensibly generate a large amount of publicity and spread one’s reputation for a very low cost. If this trend encourages more people to write more and share their ideas… I am all for having the greatest access to the greatest amount of information, so bring on the e-books.

  5. Belle Lettre says:

    Help. People get hooked on the first few chapters, hence reading in bookstores or online. But sustained reading online isn’t that great–and what if you want to reference or cite later? I wish that I could test-drive all casebooks and social science texts before buying.

    Also, you can’t take online books on the train with you, and printing them out is more bother than it’s worth. I’d rather preview online and buy the book if I like it.

    And B.D. is right–you’ll be remembered as a good author.

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