Practicing what he preaches: Chris Anderson’s Free book

Chris Anderson’s new book, Free, is available on Scribd for free for a limited time. It is a great promotional strategy for the paper and e-book editions of the book, but it doesn’t answer the question about how to make “free” a sustainable price. The book ventures to answer the question, though I haven’t found substantive answers other than the idea that, once you have an audience, it can be milked.  The limited free access on Scribd may be enough to convert free readers to paying readers, so that they can actually put the text to use, but beyond the promotional value of the short-lived giveaway, it is hard to see what changed. That would make Free a temporary price, not the inevitable answer to building great businesses.

Meghan Keane reports that Anderson answers the tough question with: “Give away the book. And pray.”

Great, a faith-based solution for publishing is exactly what we need.

UPDATE: Publishers Weekly reports that Anderson doesn’t promise any answers for publishing.

Noted News & Opinion, June 16, 2009

Global entertainment and media spending will reach $1.6 trillion in 2013, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers annual industry projections, AdWeek reports. The U.S. media industry will not match growth in the rest of the world, increasing only 1.2 percent annually, compared to the global rate of 2.7 percent, reaching $495 billion in 2013. Digital revenues are predicted to grow from 17 percent of the market today to 25 percent, for a total of $124 billion annually, four years from now. Bad news for magazines and newspapers, where revenues are expected to continue to head south.

Surprise, Jeff Bezos doesn’t like the Google-Author’s Guild settlement. But he won’t say why, according to CNET: “We have strong opinions about that issue which I’m not going to share,” Bezos is quoted as saying during the Wired Business Conference. “There are many forces of work looking at that and saying it doesn’t seem right that you should do something, kind of get a prize for violating a large series of copyrights.” The article also suggests that Bezos said Kindle sales now account for 35 percent of paper book sales, which I believe is a misinterpretation of what he said, as I discussed yesterday. What he appeared to say was that when a book is available in paper and on Kindle, 35 percent of the sales are in Kindle format.

Author Jeff Matthews suspects Google’s good for writers. He’s fond of Google Books as a research tool, as I am, then relates an interesting story about discovering why his grandfather won a medal in World War I through a book scanned by Google. It’s a touching story and is completely valid with regard to out-of-copyright books, but that kind of title isn’t what the Google-Author’s Guild covers. I have a different opinion, but I found Matthews’ story compelling.

S&S e-books venture is doomed. Author Anthony Policastro (Absence of Faith and Dark End of the Spectrum on Kindle), writing on his blog, argues that Simon & Schuster’s announced distribution deal with Scribd will fail because the pricing strategy is wrong. “Most people won’t even pay even $10 for an eBook,” Policastro writes. “The reason is that they do no perceive the value the same as the printed version.” I disagree, not because of the price point, but because the e-book as it is today is no improvement over reading a book and, in many ways, diminishes the reading experience. Someday, readers will pay more than the Jeff Bezos price ($9.99) for a book, because it will be a portal to new experiences through reading. But Policastro is right about S&S’s pricing strategy: If they want to succeed on Scribd they must compete on price, going below Amazon’s pricing.

Mitch’s Perspective: Today’s e-books have been positioned as less valuable than a mass market paperback. That needs to change, which means the features and services associated with the e-book have to change, for the better.

Amazon would be boycotted, if Science Fantasy publisher has a say. Antellus, a publishing company operated by its only author, Theresa M. Moore, has complained that Amazon is slow to respond to publishers experiencing problems with its DTP publishing platforms’ management of ASINs and and associated accounting systems. She also says Amazon should be faster in its deployment of a color Kindle. While the former may be a real problem, condemning Amazon for a “seller agreement, which allows Amazon to modify and/or sell books from its suppliers in whatever format it chooses at its own discretion,” which is key to providing book buyers archival access to titles without having to renegotiate rights each time it updates file formats, and failure to be the first to deliver a color reader diminishes the force of her arguments.

Noted News & Opinion, June 14, 2004

Here’s take-one of a daily reading notebook….

The Hulu of publishing has arrived, J.W. Coffey writes for the Examiner.com. Any time someone refers to Simon & Schuster as a “legendary publisher,” I have to wonder if they’ve been keeping up with the times. S&S is a very different beast under Rupert Murdoch and any superlative is a way to make a story sound more important than it is. However, the news that S&S is going to distribute e-books through Scribd.com is big. “Publishing has finally caught up with the digital age and the possibilities are endless,” Coffey writes. Not quite, but it is progress.

It turns out editors still flock to New York, writes The New York Times‘ Leslie Berlin: “Advances in technology “were supposed to make place unimportant, but in fact, the opposite has happened,” said Richard Florida, author of ‘Who’s Your City?: How the Creative Economy is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life (Hardcover and Kindle editions available).’” The premise is that places contribute to innovation, of course, because they provide large concentrations of people with similar interests. Guess what? That’s true. It doesn’t mean that the places matter more than the people. Just because editors still flock to New York at this early stage of the digital era doesn’t mean it will remain the center of the publishing industry as virtuality erodes the importance of the workplace. This looks like an article with absolute conclusions that will be regretted someday.

Dark Summer, a new e-book from Joanne Olivieri is out. A Lulu.com published effort in paper, the e-book is also available for $2.50 here.

The Crow and the Unicorn, a new short story by Trish Lamoree, is available in Kindle format from Amazon. The author published directly through Amazon Digital Services.

Killer Machine, an e-book by Todd Ewing, is available for Kindle (for $6.36), Fictionwise and eReader readers for $7.95. Nice to see that e-versions precede a planned paperback rather than the other way round. Nazis manipulate time and destiny, a review says. From TheEbookSale Publishing.