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February 04, 2007

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seanbirdsell@mindspring.com

Can't say I'm a forward-thinking industry type, but I know of one: Cory Doctorow. His first novel, "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom", was published by Tor Books. He worked out a deal with them to distribute free online versions as an experiment. If I remember correctly it was a success--it certainly was in my little world; after reading the digital version I gave several printed versions for Christmas. You can read more about it here:

http://www.craphound.com/down/

Justin

There's the example of Wu Ming, the Italian collective of five novelists formerly known as "Luther Blisset". Their books are freely downloadable from the authors' official website, and yet they're best-sellers in quite a few European countries, and Wu Ming claim they make a good living out of that. Just take a look at this:
http://www.wumingfoundation.com/english/englishmenu.htm
And here's the Wikipedia entry for them:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wu_Ming_Foundation

tim

For what it's worth, I originally downloaded the audiobook to "sample," but bought the real thing after getting through most of it. The nature of my commute and how I use reading material for work really mandates I engage in a lot of audio book reading, but I always make a paper copy purchase if I get far enough into the book that I feel I'm going to finish it.

Audiobooks on p2p services are my version of browsing at B&N or Borders, things I love to do but no longer have the time for.

Yuval Tobias

I've never understood how the majority accepts the fact that with technological advances experiences should be cheaper, but never better. What I mean is that the notion of selling the same music at the same price with a much lower cost of production/distribution is tolerated, while things like getting the searchable PDF instantly when you buy a book is unheard of...

Andrew Chapman

While I wait to buy a copy of the paperback edition of TLT here in the UK, will you send me a PDF, Chris?

Curtis

There are two torrents linked to from your search, one that does look like a true e-book (and one audiobook). Even though you may never have put out an e-book version doesn't mean someone didn't sacrifice their copy to make one, instructions on how to turn a normal paper book into an ebook can be found in this instructable:

How to "Steal This Book"
http://www.instructables.com/id/EKFE6O6J24EQHOAV4R/?ALLSTEPS

-- C

Mary Warner

I'd like to point out that public libraries have been allowing people to read books for free for ages now. In fact, Chris, as soon as I learned of your book, I was the first to request it from our library. (Sorry, that sounds a little snotty and boastful. Not intended to be so. It's more about amazement that someone hadn't beaten me to the punch.) Because of that free read, whether I purchase the book or not, I'm much more likely to support your work in other ways, such as my subscription to Wired. I don't think downloading free books is going to make a huge dent in numbers of regular books purchased. Book collectors are a rabid bunch, not likely to easily give up their beloved books or the experience of purchasing them. There's nothing like walking into a library or bookstore and seeing all these books arrayed for your choosing. Buying books is as much about this experience as it is about reading them. Downloading doesn't have the same impact.

gabriel

I am a audiobooks reader, and really can´t afford to buy (here in Brasil, they are really expensive).
But I usually send the proper paper books that I like as gifts to people. Curiously, that happened with your book. Keep up the good work.

I took the liberty of quoting you in my brasilian blog (a post about piracy): http://donttalkaboutlife.blogspot.com/2007/02/pirataria-opinio-de-quem-pirateado.html

Julie Gomoll

I don't really like reading ebooks - I downloaded each of Cory's offerings to see if I wanted to buy the paper book. I bought the paper book every time. I probably would never have bought that first one had I not had the free sample.

John Groom

You make a huge, and pretty obvious, logical error when you say that only a small number of books make money, and therefore most of those books are published for non-economic reasons. As a self-published author, I can assure you that far more than 2% of the writers wished to make money, although they may well also have non-economic motivation. Your logic is somewhat akin to saying that, although most VC backed projects don't make money, the backers were not trying to make money. Of course, that is not true; the logic of both media projects and VCs is that a few big winners covers the cost of many losers - but only if they get paid for the big winners.

Nathan Jones

As others have said, many people prefer the experience of a proper book and will go ahead and buy it.

In my case, I'm still waiting for the day when I can buy ebooks and digital music albums (at a reduced price, but I still want to show financial support).

CDs are useless once the music's on the computer, and I find it easier to read in bed by scrolling on my PDA: it's lighter and less awkward than a book, and with a backlight, I can read while my partner sleeps.

Currently though, there's nothing appealing: with the exception of small players like Magnatune, music comes with DRM to lock it into particular software and devices. And ebooks would need to be available in a range of formats - eg. a Plkr document for my Palm, something else for other platforms/readers, etc.

Zak Kinion

Hook up the torrent link. I have a good ratio and fast connection. ;)

Maria Bonn

There are a group of us at the University of Michigan working on these issues in the context of publishing the academic monograph. The University of Michigan Press and the University of Michigan Library are publishing a small set of books through a new imprint, digitalculturebooks (see http://www.digitalculture.org), that will be available both for purchase in print and for free online. Our imprint has many goals, and selling books is certainly one of the most important. But in producing and tracking these books we also hope to understand better the relationship between print and online use and its impact on buying and reading behavior. We are way too early in our projects to have any answers, but we are developing and refining the questions. The questions are further complicated in our context because there are three different parties with differing vested interests and differing economies involved in producing these books: 1) The Press, whose mission is to develop and distribute scholarly books that almost by definition do not have broad market appeal but that, at least in aggregate, are intended to generate enough revenue to maintain the Press; 2) The Library, which is centrally funded and in return for that funding strives to maximize access to content and 3) the authors, who may want to make a little money, but are much more interested in reputation capital and broad dissemination of their ideas. Like you, we’re keenly interested in seeing if these possibly competing interests can find a mutually beneficial coexistence. You can see the earliest step of our experiment in The Best of Technology Writing 2006 (edited by Wired contributing editor Brendan Koerner, free to read at http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.5283331 and for sale from The Press. We’ll be experimenting with other online book models and print/online relationships over the next couple of years.

Bob Baker

Chris, while I agree that most authors don't make much money from their books, saying "almost nobody writes books for a living" is a bit of a simplistic statement. I'm one of those rare authors who does make a good living from the sales of my self-published books, so I have a different perspective. In fact, I consider myself a living example of Long Tail abundance economics in action.

Regarding giving away free ebooks to sell print books, I've been using a different model to promote my identity as a source of indie music marketing and artist empowerment advice. For about 12 years I've been giving away lots of free tips through my ezine and free articles. In more recent years, I've added a blog, a podcast and video content.

Like you, I don't give away full versions of my books online, but I do freely distribute writings on my topic. This demonstrates what I offer and leads to exposure and name recognition, in the same way new bands create buzz with free downloads, etc.

Once you have engaged a growing audience with an abundance of your writing samples, it's a lot easier to sell them on your more in-depth, for-sale products. Stay at it long enough and you can make a living doing it.

With audiobooks, the same approach applies. Give away spoken-word samples, perhaps in the form of short podcasts (as I do). Then sell the full-length audio version to those who want more.

Like in most aspects of life, you have to give to get.

Check out my www.FullTimeAuthor.com blog for more details on my self-publishing philosophy.

-Bob

Kahrzdn

Liberated books

What if the author could negotiate a liberation sales number with publisher?

The auther/publisher calculates a certain sales number that if reached will give reasonal profit or maybe just a publishing cost break even.

After this number is reached the book will by contract be absolutely free to distribute in any digitally form.

Joseph

have a look at this model:
http://www.welcometothebeehive.com/

the ebook is sold for a low price and the audiobook is free (three chapters downloadable and the rest available to listen on the site).

the idea is it is easier to listen to a podcast than open an ebook and read it. You get captured by what you listen and want to read it full so you purchase the book.


seth godin

Hi Chris,

I've been wrestling with this for a while. My best answer? Audiobooks need to be a lot cheaper. I think the subset of people willing to listen is very small, thus the sharing temptation/leverage is not what it is for an ebook. As a result, you're unlikely to ignite a virus the way you could at changethis.com.

Once audiobooks are $2 or $4 each, though, the audience that likes them will certainly be motivated to try more...

I also agree that backlist audio titles ought to decrease in price until they hit free. Sunk costs are sunk costs, and they ought to be ignored.

Roger

There's an another complication with audio books as compared to ebooks - there's an additional artist involved. Paying for the voice talent to record a good audio version costs much more than merely converting one digital version (whatever is used by the typesetter) to another (that is more comfortable to read in the ebook environment.) While exceptions exist, the author is frequently NOT the best person to provide the voice that reads the book - and if you want to involve a well-known voice actor, the cost goes way up.

Until digital voice technology improves, audio books will still be more expensive than the ebook equivalent. Once the technology improves to the point that its a pleasure to listen, then the audio book will be exactly the same as the text ebook (because the conversion to voice will take place at home instead of on the server).

CD

Why not make the audiobook ad-supported? A quick sponsor mention at the beginning and end wouldn't be a big deal and could generate a small amount of incremental revenue, while also getting you out there in front of more people. In my opnion, this is a better solution than charging $2 or $4. Then you can offer it for free on iTunes and on your site, & track the number of downloads and use that figure to negotiate a better ad deal on your next one.

nicole cruz

Ebooks for free? That's good news but I don't think the Audiobooks would be for free as well. But hopefully Audiobooks can e a lot cheaper than its recent rate.

Michael Cader

Chris:

You raise some interesting questions--most of which, I think you know, are non-starters for the traditional book business. The digital audiobook is a paid product (and the fastest-growing segment of the market); no one is going to condone a giveaway of the same product.

Bundling makes sense in the abstract--but most publishers don't feel as if they need to offer something extra on top of the print product (and believe that doing so devalues the core product). Amazon can't even get uptake on their Upgrade program, which is a lot more intuitive and is just a different delivery from for exactly the same product.

Part of it, too, is that audiobooks aren't exactly the same market as print books--a lot of the action is libraries and institutions, where pricing/value is different, and core buyers not shopping in traditional retail where baseline price/value has been established and kept relatively high. The market grows nicely, and has less competition than print books. They don't want/need to be a mass market product, and they don't to reprice as Seth suggests or stretch for marginal dollars.

I think you need to look at this issue sideways rather than head on. The simplest solution for your next book is that you don't have to license audio as part of the rights basket; if you reserve it, you can set it free. But I'm not sure that a free audio version will promote print sales all that robustly--and if free audio has promotional value, I bet a shorter/abridged file is just as effective if not more so. (Are there really a lot of people who want to listen to all 8 hours, only for free, who might then pay for the print version?)

The practical solution is that you control all kinds of audio besides the unabridged audiobook--your speeches are effective (and continuously updated) presentations of your ideas, or you can take an hour and create a unique sound file.

You should post that for free, which will bother your publisher less, and it will probably be a more effective promotion--for both the book and the unabridged audio--than a straight book reading anyway.

Harley

There are a remarkable number of people sharing opinions as if they applied to everyone. I guess if your world view is that you are the center of the universe, you just assume what is true for you/for what you do/your experience, is true for all it just naturally follows that everyone else should do as you say.

Appreciate Mr Cader's point that there are many different business models. That businesses--large and small--are exploring all kinds of ways of testing these new markets and that some ways work for some kinds of content & content creators, but may not for others.

Its risky, there are few rules. Those that have a lot to lose, like established businesses, are understandably somewhat cautious. Yes, it's a frontier, and there are innovative visionaries that have made remarkable strides. But I do find myself wishing those visionaries took a bit more of a 360 look at things and didn't all have egos the size of the Ritz....hopeless, I know.

Francis Hamit

Dear Chris:

I went a different way with my book. "The Shenandoah Spy" is available exclusively from Amazon.com's Amazon Shorts program as a 14 part serial. At 49 cents per part. I am currently sending out printed and bound galleys of the whole thing to reviewers. No audio book yet,nor a printed edition of any kind. And yet, it sells and I get paid a pretty good royalty by Amazon.com.

As I understand it you got a very good six figure advance for your book. That was because you are Chris Anderson of Wired Magazine. That advance has to earn out, so I can understand why your agents are upset with you. If it does not earn out your next advance will be much smaller...if it exists at all.

This is the business we're in. Letting people steal from you to be cool is very uncool from that standpoint.

Let me know if you want to review my book.

Wingsty

I convert my Audible books with SoundTaxi.
It's is simple to use and it works as advertised. I searched for all my protected .aa files and dropped them to the program and the magic started right away! A must for any one who buys Audible audiobooks.
http://www.soundtaxi.info

Brett

I think the idea of including the promotional code with a purchased print version is a great idea. I personally prefer an audio version, at least upon the first listen. But, you miss out on any graphs or illustrations, plus the ever-important "highlight factor." Makes perfect sense.

Narain

Chris,

I tried to download your unbound presentation but only getting junk characters. Where i can download the presentation?

pacopalmas

What I usually do about audiobooks.
Firstly I download the audio via BitTorrent or any other peer to peer way (570 Mb for the Long Tail, 128 kbs MP3, around 5 downloading hours).
Secondly, I upload it into my iPod and I listen to it while walking, at the bus...anywhere.
Then, if I like the book, I buy it at Amazon and stock it on my shelf, but I will never read it. If I don´t like it, I just delete the files.

Ken Horst

I've been saying the same thing about movies for a while now. Why couldn't we choose to pay $1.00 more for a movie ticket at the theater for the legal right to download and burn it when it goes to DVD?

Sorry Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, etc.

Evan

I hope with all my heart and soul that you are sued by some huge media company for copyright infringment! That would make my day. You could even write a wired piece on it, which would then be so funny and ironc that it would make everyone's day=).

Moral: Please keep downloading the torrent!

John I.

There are motives behind human activities. The motives of the writers/authors of books are primarily - I believe - to be red by an audience as broad as possible and - of course - to make a decent living by it. In this sense, the digital (yeah!....even the pirated version) of books can reach a much wider target group than if distributed otherwise by the traditional channels and can act as a form of marketing.

For my part, if I like an e-book (after taking a look first from its digital version) I will probably buy it, because it is a much more convenient way to read it. And I think that is the case for most people.

So I consider the digitalization (even the.....piratization....) of e-books as a form of marketing to make individual ideas and feelings reach as broad an audience as possible....and I see nothing bad to it, on the contrary, I see a sense of democracy spread in a worlwide scale.

As for the the Long Tail , it describes a concept very powerfull in its meaning, and, the more is widespead, the better.

Omar

The idea of printing a book with an embedded code in it is currently being offered by Enhanced Books: http://www.enhancedbooks.com

Morvan

For a slightly different angle on the same topic, you might be interested in noticing that Paris-based band Phoenix released its latest album not only as a CD but also as a limited-edition book of photos including a code for a free iTunes download of the full album.
Basically it is about books becoming a new kind of vehicles for digital music.
http://www.dighitbook.com/presentation.html

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For my part, if I like an e-book (after taking a look first from its digital version) I will probably buy it, because it is a much more convenient way to read it. And I think that is the case for most people.

Firstly I download the audio via BitTorrent or any other peer to peer way (570 Mb for the Long Tail, 128 kbs MP3, around 5 downloading hours).
Secondly, I upload it into my iPod and I listen to it while walking, at the bus...anywhere.

Appreciate Mr Cader's point that there are many different business models. That businesses--large and small--are exploring all kinds of ways of testing these new markets and that some ways work for some kinds of content & content creators, but may not for others.

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Tidbits

The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

FREE was available in all digital forms--ebook, web book, and audiobook--for free shortly after the hardcover was published on July 7th. The ebook and web book were free for a limited time and limited to certain geographic regions as determined by each national publisher; the unabridged MP3 audiobook (get zip file here) will remain free forever, available in all regions.

Order the hardcover now!