Monday, February 18, 2008

BPN 1012 HarperCollins takes off the shrink wraps

After offering a few pages as a browsing teaser for buying books, HaperCollins Publishers goes further and puts up free electronic books on the Web. The company hopes to increase book sales.

The idea is to let people flip through a book like they could in a book store. HarperCollins has put a twenty or so books online now ranging from a novel, to a cookbook and a book about the US elections.

HarperCollins already offered internet users the opportunity to browse a few pages of a book, like But apparently this did not stimulate the sales well enough. Now HarperCollins offers the entire book for the duration of one month. The books can be read on screen. HarperCollins will also be giving 20 per cent deduction prior to the publishing of hardbacks.

The marketing people at HarperCollins are convinced that readers keep buying books despite the free availability on the web. They think that readers will be tired from screen reading after 20 or 30 pages. Of course the company has taken measures against copying. The book can not be downloaded nor can it officially be printed, but a small public domain software tool will let you print page by page; a book like Silver Angel will take 235 times a print command to reproduce all the pages.

The argument that people will buy a book once the shrink wrap is removed is interesting, but not fully convincing. It depends on the type book. Of a novel you like to know how the plot shapes up and the last pages. It depends on the writing style whether you want to read the in between stuff. However with a cook book, you like to scan recipes; so a table of contents and a few examples will give a good impression of the book. If you offer the full cook book (for a month) people will select the recipes and print these with the public domain software. And the sale of a children’s book, especially one for small kids, often depends on the graphical design, the format and the concrete printed book.

HarperCollins sports the novel of Paolo Coelho The Witch of Portobello for this new way of marketing, even including an embedded link (oh so Web 2.0). Checking out the various distribution channels, I could not find the e-book version of this new novel. There are already e-books of Paolo Coelho’s earlier novels. So instead of offering the full novel for a month, as a publisher I would rather offer an e-book version simultaneously to the publishing of the printed version.

Last year the top three Dutch language books were two novels and a diet book: Harry Potter, a diet book and The Kite Runner. In the Netherlands and Belgium the top means more than 500.000 copies for that year. These titles have not been supported by a fully accessible file on internet. I believe that a title benefits from a well documented site rather than a fully accessible file. But the jury is out now.

Blog Posting Number: 1012

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