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Does Generosity Pay Off?

Categories: blogs and online writing, publishing news and views.
Hi Writers,

To follow up on my previous post on changing reading habits, the poll right now:
Do you buy less print (books, magazines, newspapers) than five years ago?
37 people so far have voted “yes” (they are buying less) vs. 51 people who voted “no.” I’m keeping the poll open so scroll down and cast your vote.

Reassuring numbers for writers, although the fact that writers are the primary readers of this blog skews those numbers. Interesting to note comments here and on the forum, many mentioned that while they do buy fewer newspapers, they buy just as many if not more magazines and books than they did five years ago. So that’s encouraging.

On that note, HarperCollins is rolling the dice with a new program that will offer the full contents of many of their books online free of charge.

HarperCollins Will Post Free Books on the Web

Here’s an excerpt from The New York Times article:

In an attempt to increase book sales, HarperCollins Publishers will begin offering free electronic editions of some of its books on its Web site, including a novel by Paulo Coelho and a cookbook by the Food Network star Robert Irvine.

The idea is to give readers the opportunity to sample the books online in the same way that prospective buyers can flip through books in a bookstore.

“It’s like taking the shrink wrap off a book,” said Jane Friedman, chief executive of HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide. “The best way to sell books is to have the consumer be able to read some of that content.”

A gamble to be sure, one the whole publishing industry will no doubt be watching closely. Hopefully what Paulo Coelho had to say is true: “I believe that generosity pays off.”

I love that. And I hope he’s right.
What’s your take?

Keep Writing,
Maria

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10 Responses to Does Generosity Pay Off?

  1. Shaun Eli says:

    I think it’s a good idea. People like to browse in bookstores, but with a lot of purchasing taking place on-line it’s good to be able to do the same thing.

    In my industry (stand-up comedy) most comedians with any business sense post at least short performance clips so that potential audience members can learn about us before going to a show. In my case (www.BrainChampagne.com) I have no only a video clip but comedic essays and jokes I’ve written for late-night TV, so people can not only watch me perform but also learn about my sense of humor.

    Shaun Eli

  2. Lori Widmer says:

    The thing is this – I spend all day on the computer. When I’m ready to relax, I want to sit down in a soft chair and read a book, not remain in the chair that holds me captive for hours on end and read an electronic book.

    I think Kindle and other products may make electronic books much more popular, but until those become more affordable, I’ll stick with a real book.

  3. James A. Ritchie says:

    Baen books started giving away free electronic copies of many of their books a few years ago, and not just to read online. You can download and keep them. And it’s helped their sales.

    http://www.baen.com/library/

    Seems to me that HarperCollins is coming in late with less.

  4. {what people don’t know is that Harper Collins only launched this free online reading site after the bestselling author Paulo Coelho revealed his pirate coelho blog to the world}

    wow, thanks for that insight Paula. And good on Paulo for pushing his content into the digital world. We are all living in an amazing era as the digital world and real life world learn to co exist. As a writer I have wrestled with the idea of whether or not to increase my web presence and voice on the internet. I decided yes, the web is here and it’s here to stay. Using it as a platform is an amazing opportunity to reach many readers that print copy can’t give.

    But I don’t think the printed word is going away. I see it as having to move over and make room for the new kid in town. Is there room for both? I think so. As others have pointed out, we don’t curl up in our warm beds reading e-books on our laptops or PDA’s.

    I was on a city bus last week. In my field of vision I saw four people reading paperbacks. Not a single e-book.

    One last thought, for me as a reader, a great way for me to sample an unknown author is to read whatever content they make available on line. It’s like a Costco sample. If I like it, I just might buy it and take it home and savor it to the fullest.

  5. Little1 says:

    well – what people don’t know is that Harper Collins only launched this free online reading site after the bestselling author Paulo Coelho revealed his pirate coelho blog to the world during the DLD conference in Munich last January.
    I read the interveiw he gave for Newsweek and can’t help to join the dots:
    http://www.newsweek.com/id/108715
    I doubt Harper Collins would have made such a move without this author’s pressure.
    Thumbs up for Pirate Coelho!

  6. Offering choices, new opportunities and options are good things.

  7. After working eight hours or more daily at the computer, I much prefer reading real paper. It’s relaxing. Stop and think. Studies say that using the computer right up until you go to bed makes it hard for you to fall asleep. Your mind is racing. You’re seated upright in a firm chair designed not to let you slump, too. However, I can immediately take a book, curl up in bed or recliner, and completely relax. If I see a review or sample chapter for a book online, I’m going to purchase the book in hard form online or go to the bookstore. I won’t read an entire chapter online, much less a book. Give me paper. I’ve got several books on my hard drive now. Just can’t make myself read them.

  8. DH Dilkes says:

    I applaud HCs effort to adapt to the changing climate. The major publishers seem to be trying new ideas rather than clinging to the old model that other media industries, especially the music industry, have run into the ground. By not making the book downloadable or printable for a limited time it’s a good teaser that might entice readers to buy the book or at least check it out at the library or curl up with it at the bookstore.

  9. Donna Carter says:

    I still buy books like crazy. I love to read & although I’m willing to read stuff that’s online, nothing beats curling up in bed with a good book.

  10. Thanks for the link to the article, Maria. Interesting to read the whole thing. I noticed Mr. Coelho didn’t think readers would read beyond 20-30 pages online. Maybe they’re counting on many people like me — those who don’t like to do all of their reading at the computer. I’ll be interested to see how putting the entire contents online impacts sales. When you hear the results, update us again please.

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