February 11, 2008
Harper Collins recently announced that they are going to offer free web editions of some of their most popular titles, starting with Paul Coelho’s (an author that I greatly admire) novel, The Witch of Portobello, a cookbook by Robert Irvine (a Food Network star), a guide to the upcoming presidential election by Mark Halperin, and a children’s book by Erin Hunter.
I think this is a great idea – readers can check out a book before they purchase, like browsing in a bookstore. After all, it is unlikely that many will read the entire book online (eyestrain, computers aren’t exactly easy to curl up with), so this is a good way to offer teasers. And for those that will choose to read the entire thing? Each book is only going to be offered for a month*, and the print function will be disabled.
What do the authors think?
“Reached by telephone in Paris, Mr. Coelho said: “I believe that generosity pays off.” On his own blog, he gives readers links to pirated editions uploaded by readers in numerous languages. “I believe that they are not going to go beyond 20 or 30 pages” when reading on the Internet, he said.
Neil Gaiman, the fantasy novelist, short story and comics writer, is asking readers of his blog to vote on the title they would most like to give as a gift. An electronic scan of the winning title will be offered free on the HarperCollins site later this month. Mr. Gaiman said the online effort was not so different from what has been going on for generations.
“I didn’t grow up buying every book I read,” said the English born Mr. Gaiman, 47. “I read books at libraries, I read books at friend’s houses, I read books that I found on people’s window sills.” Eventually, he said, he bought his own books and he believes other readers will, too.”
Hey, you have to give something to get something – it’s nice to see that a big publisher knows that. Granted, they are not exactly opening the vaults, but it’s a start. And it’s definitely better than the music industry’s model of keeping everything under digital lock and key.
*A different title by Paul Coelho is going to be available each month for the rest of the year.