“I think that Harper Collins got this one wrong. They’ve put the text of American Gods up in a wrapper that loads pictures of the pages from the printed book, one page at a time, with no facility for offline reading. The whole thing runs incredibly slowly and is unbelievably painful to use. I think we can be pretty sure that no one will read this version instead of buying the printed book — but that’s only because practically no one is going to read this version, period.”
He goes on to say that, in fact, he was able to jump onto Google and locate a pirated version of the book online and download it to his computer in the time it takes the Harper-Collins page to fully load.
His point is that, as an experiment in the value of releasing a free digital versions of a book, this is a complete failure. As Mason points out many times in “The Pirate’s Dilemma”, you can’t compete with pirates if what you offer isn’t nearly as good as the pirated version. Just because the Harper-Collins digital version doesn’t charge you money to read it doesn’t mean it’s free. It’s completely chained to a cumbersome interface and impossible to enjoy properly.
In a similar vain, TechDirt has a cool look at another result of free digital releases.
“SciFi author John Scalzi just participated in publisher Tor’s recent effort to offer up free ebooks, and discovered an almost immediate boost in sales. He admits that there could be other factors involved, but tries to account for all of them, and concludes that it’s almost definitely the free ebooks that are driving the noticeable increase.”
In the interest of science, I headed over to Tor books to find out just what one had to do to get a free ebook. As it turned out, it wasn’t completely obvious on their homepage so I had to do a bit of digging. To get the free book the ask you to sign up for their newsletter – I tried to do that but the website just seems to be hanging…
The point is that this is more proof that the traditional distributors and distribution methods are changing and along with that is going to come a whole bunch of new ways to promote and sell “books” that might never actually be published in hard form.