A blog from Tonto Books, featuring musings from the publishing world and some occasional special guest appearances.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Free books! The future of publishing?

There's an interesting feature on Wired this week, Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business. It's written by Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail, which basically explained how businesses, including publishers and booksellers, can shift away from focussing on a relatively small number of big 'hits' and toward a larger number of small niches. (Anderson discusses the 'long tail' of publishing in his original Long Tail feature.) The Long Tail was a business and publishing 'sensation', so we'd we wise to take notice of his new work.

In 'Free!', Anderson explores how companies offer free razors to make revenue from blades, free mobile phone handsets to make revenue from service plans, and so on. It's not a new concept - Gillette pioneered it in the early 1900s. But how can this be applied to publishing? Earlier this month, Suze Orman's book "Women & Money" was offered as a free download for two days on Oprah Winfrey's website, and was downloaded more than 1.1 million times. Despite the fact that the public could read it for free, the book shot to the top of the Amazon's sales rankings - because people tend to prefer physical books to online e-books. They were drawn in by the freebie, but ended up buying the book.

Offering stuff for free is something we've been actively discussing in the Tonto office recently. We tried it back in 2006 with our free Christmas short stories anthology, which 1,200 people downloaded. Everyone likes free stuff, right? Watch this space for more.


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