Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, February 17, 2008

More on OA editions and print sales

Tom Peters, Free and Fleeting, ALA Techsource, February 11, 2008.

... Today HarperCollins began a new marketing experiment to try to gain additional experiential knowledge about this question [of how free digital editions affect print sales]. They began offering free online viewing of the complete electronic versions of selected titles.

You will need to jump through a few hoops to access these free online books. You must register at the HarperCollins website, including filling out the required data fields for your name, password, and address. You also need to indicate what types of books you like to read, as well as accept the official rules of the promotional program.

This morning I registered and wended my way to the full text of The Witch of Portobello, by Paulo Coelho. You can read the book online (no downloading or printing, however), search through the full text, read and submit reader reviews, and, of course, follow a link to purchase the book.

The flip side of offering ongoing access to online snippets, which HarperCollins has been doing for some time, is to offer access to the entire text for a limited time, which is the option HarperCollins launched today. Each full-text digital book will be available only one month. I couldn't find any indicator of when the online ebook I was reading would go away. Beware the Ides of March, I reckon.

If this new service continues, we can safely assume that HarperCollins found some positive correlation between offering free online access to the complete books for a limited time and increased sales of the selected titles. I hope, however, HarperCollins shares some of their data and findings.

Comment (by Peter). I commend HarperCollins for trying this experiment. Unfortunately, the registration requirement, mandatory survey, and time limit of one month of free access per book will reduce the visibility of the texts, reduce traffic to the site, and distort the experiment.