Crown Books Gets a FAIL from Cory Doctorow

Author Scott Sigler is something of a trailblazer when it comes to online fiction, having self-produced and distributed his first books as free episodic audio podcasts.  This gained him such a big following that one of the many publishers that had rejected him in the past suddenly sat up and took notice.

Crown Books is releasing Sigler’s next novel, INFECTED, but before doing so they’ve released a free pdf to download…but only for 4 days.

As Cory points out:

“Worse still: Crown is only making the download available before the book goes on sale! This is an act of massive goofiness. Here’s what this means: the book’s promotional download period ends before you can buy the book. If you download this book and love it, you can’t walk down to the bookstore and pick up a copy. Sure, you can pre-order it on Amazon, but I know from watching my affiliate link payments here on Boing Boing that ten times as many of you buy books that are on sale when I blog them than buy books that have to be pre-ordered. The Internet exists in an eternal NOW, and expecting someone who downloads a book to hold onto the impulse to buy it for four days is so unrealistic, it makes me suspect that this strategy was conceived of by someone who doesn’t actually use the Internet.”

I am with Cory here.  I don’t understand Crown’s strategy at all.  The theory behind putting out a free ebook alongside a for-fee print edition is that some people have found that it actually increases the sales of the print edition.  It sounds a little counter-intuitive but there are plenty of reasons for this to be true.

A free edition is snapped up by the most hardcore fans who will be most likely to spread the word to the wider circle of readers needed to build satisfactory sales figures.  A free edition is downloaded by a curious reader who would probably never pay to read the book but, having read this one for free and liked it is much more likely to go buy other titles from the same author.

If you believe this to be true, why release it for only 4 days?  That’s not even enough time for word to spread properly that it exists at all.   Not only that, but what is the legal status of the pdf that is now out on the internet.  Will I be in trouble if I download it now and then send it someone else to read after the 4-day period is over?

This kind of behavior from big companies totally baffles me.  I’d think they had some kind of consultants or maybe even just a smart intern to point out the flaws in their plan.

I mean, they could have just called me.  I’m always happy to lend a hand.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Crown Books Gets a FAIL from Cory Doctorow

  1. The problem is Crown wants to use this as a marketing tool, but selling eBooks is still a line item in their budget projections. It’s not a BIG line item, but it’s there. So if they just give it away in perpetuity, they can’t sell it, and pandemonium reigns. It was a lot of prodding to even get the four days. I truly wish they would just give in and keep the thing free – that works for Cory, and he’s the only one who flat-out gives away full versions of all his books. And he’s not doing it after the book has been out for a few years, like Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods,” he does it from square one. And it works. His books sell. They keep selling, even though people can get them for free in PDF form. It’s like a secret voodoo magic.

    So I give Crown credit for trying something new, for experimenting with a new strategy, Cory does have some very salient points.

  2. mymediamusings

    Thanks for leaving the comment. It’s so interesting to see how the big fish are struggling to figure out how to behave in the digital age. I honestly don’t think there is any voodoo for Cory. A free pdf is still a very different thing than a real book and I do think both can actually survive and thrive simultaneously. I would be shocked if keeping your pdf available would do anything but continue to boost your hard copy sales. I know it is hard to believe and maybe over time this won’t be true (like when ebooks become more prevelant) but for the time being I think there is a lot to be gained with free digital copies.

    I’m still curious what the sort of legal issues are now that, say, I’ve downloaded the free pdf. Could I send that to a friend to read legally or would that be a copyright violation?

    I agree with you that it is cool that they’ve even done this much of a digital release and it is certainly a start. It’s also because of their offer (and it being pointed out by Cory last week?) that I not only downloaded the book but went to podiobooks and got Earthcore. Just got to the big massacre at the mining camp. Good stuff!

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