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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