Making Books Free: David Pogue’s Experiment

He’s a tech­nol­o­gy colum­nist for The New York Times, and the author of many pop­u­lar tech­nol­o­gy man­u­als. And today, David Pogue writes about an exper­i­ment he con­duct­ed last year, test­ing the hypoth­e­sis that free e‑books can dri­ve sales of print copies (rather than eat into them). How did it work out? He writes:

My pub­lish­er, O’Reil­ly, decid­ed to try an exper­i­ment, offer­ing one of my Win­dows books for sale as an unpro­tect­ed PDF file. After a year, we could com­pare the results with the pre­vi­ous year’s sales. The results? It was true. The thing was pirat­ed to the skies. It’s all over the Web now, ridicu­lous­ly easy to down­load with­out pay­ing. The crazy thing was, sales of the book did not fall. In fact, sales rose slight­ly dur­ing that year. That’s not a per­fect, all-vari­ables-equal exper­i­ment, of course; any num­ber of fac­tors could explain the results. But for sure, it was­n’t the dis­as­ter I’d feared.

A nice con­clu­sion. But then the next ques­tion. Will free e‑books do any­thing good for e‑books being sold on the Kindle/Nook/Sony Read­er? Still an open ques­tion…

Final­ly, speak­ing of ebooks, we’ve just launched our new col­lec­tion of Free eBooks. It includes over 100 free e‑books, most­ly clas­sics, that you can read on your com­put­er, smart phone (iPhone/Android), or Kin­dle. Please take a look (also read the relat­ed eBook primer) and offer any feed­back you might have.

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