Monday, January 17, 2005

free downloads of out of bounds book


The internet rumours are true. Due to an administrative error, the entire text of my book was available as a free download on the internet over last weekend. Frantic emailing state-side and the error was corrected.

Which, when I paused for breath, left me pondering the question – if a person was to download it, would they still buy a hard copy?

OK, let me make that personal. If you downloaded a book, would you still want to read/own/possess the hard copy?

Is free downloads good marketing, or bad selling?

Posted by steve at 09:18 PM


  1. Nightmare!!!!
    Personally, I’d want the bound hardcopy. 100’s of printed pages is a nightmare to read.
    Glad you saved the day!

    Comment by Larraine — January 17, 2005 @ 10:19 pm

  2. great for the reader, no money for the writer. Tough call, eh?

    Comment by maggi — January 17, 2005 @ 11:07 pm

  3. i accidentally downloaded the ‘book’ – but haven’t ‘opened’ it yet.

    would I now buy a hard copy? i don’t think so, but then I am of the opinion that maybe we ought to have more free dissemination of ideas and information.

    Comment by hamo — January 17, 2005 @ 11:41 pm

  4. I’ve received e-copies of a couple of books, after promising the author that I would buy the hard copy once it was printed (which I’ve done). I absolutely think it’s a good idea… sort of “honour-based marketing”. I think it can help to create excitment.

    And after all, once I buy a “real” copy of a book I could, in theory, loan it out to a hundred different people. Any way you look at it the integrity of the system is open to abuse.

    Comment by Mike — January 18, 2005 @ 5:29 am

  5. At least it was their mistake! Personally I have never downloaded a whole book, but (ethics aside) I think it would depend on (a) the nature of the book, I prefer electronic reference works, but print for sustained reading. (b) It depends how good the book is. I buy some books off the shelves, but then regret the expense, this way I would make that decision before buying. Baen publishers are the people with most experience of this form of marketing.

    Comment by tim — January 18, 2005 @ 8:06 am

  6. PS, are the downloaded copies “out of bounds” now?

    Comment by tim — January 18, 2005 @ 8:07 am

  7. Ouch! No PDF functionality for “This book will self-destruct 10 seconds after you’ve read it…”

    Personally I’d buy the paper copy, but that’s because I don’t like reading electronic text and I rely upon all sorts of other cues to remember where I read something – position on the page, typeface, related images and even the smell and texture of a book.

    I do like the idea that publishers O’Reilly have where they release previous editions or out of print books as free electronic copy as part of their Open Books project. See:

    Comment by StephenG — January 18, 2005 @ 9:46 am

  8. I certainly wouldn’t read an entire book on-line and I wouldn’t print an entire book to be able to read it.

    If I’m going to read a book I want it in my hands. The only reason that the electronic version would appeal to me is if I wanted to quickly find a particular passage I had read. If it’s in an electronic format I can run a search.

    Comment by Rodney Olsen — January 18, 2005 @ 2:06 pm

  9. Seth Godin and others have done this intentionally with very positive results. I downloaded his book on Viral marketing “Unleashe the Idea Virus” months before it was published and then bought the book when it finally came out. So did many thousands of others. I think it’s a great way to ‘promote’ your ideas and the generate a much larger audience for the actual printed book. see Seth’s blog [] for more on this.

    God bless


    BTW – I only downloaded ch1 🙁 – but really look forward to seeing the book when Koorong finally get round to getting it.

    Comment by Gordon — January 18, 2005 @ 6:15 pm

  10. I was suprised to get the whole thing. I read a lot of books online. Many of them are good on my PDA – so you can still read in bed (even with the lights out!) Leonard Sweet’s “Dawn mistaken for Dusk” was an early favorite. However e-books are hard to lend to people, and yours is one I’ll want to. I’m up to page 84, and yes it’s already pre-ordered on Amazon.

    Comment by Graeme — January 18, 2005 @ 11:57 pm

  11. If I being honest it would depend whether I thought the book was any good – if good I would get a hard copy – if bad I would be grateful that I hadn’t spent any money.So I guess it could be good marketing ploy.

    I missed the free download so i guess I will just have to cough up the reddies.

    Has your publisher any way of assessing what you/they might have lost as a result of this gaff?

    Comment by Tom Allen — January 19, 2005 @ 1:11 pm

  12. Hm. I’d treat an e-copy like I would a browse at a bookstore. I might read a hunk of it and then decide to buy, or read a hunk and decide to ditch. I love e-everything, but nothing, and I mean nothing, will replace (for me) the value of a physical, non-digital, book.

    Yours is on my wish list at Amazon. (Based on prior experience, that means it will be ordered within the next 9 months…) Peace to you and your house.

    Comment by Evers — January 23, 2005 @ 4:49 am

  13. A good article on an author who’s tried the free download thing, and is convinced by it: Wired News: A Novelist Who Walks the Walk

    Comment by Matt — January 25, 2005 @ 8:49 am

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