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Pirate Yourself, Become a Best-Seller 288

Posted by kdawson
from the old-time-religion dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "It sounds like a dotcom-era business plan: 1) give it away, 2) ???, 3) make pots of money. Author Paulo 'Pirate' Coelho leapt out of obscurity and onto the best-seller list by giving away his books on the Net. The best-selling author of 'The Alchemist' will even help you pirate his books via his blog. His publishers were not pleased, but then his books went from selling 1,000 copies to 100,000 and then over a million. He gives special credit to pirate translators who are making his work accessible to a wider audience and convincing more people to read his book."
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Pirate Yourself, Become a Best-Seller

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:59AM (#22180614)
    These guys [s2games.com] recently released their newest game as a free download, with a $30 charge to register an account to play it online. Both this and TFA are exactly what us slashdotters have been telling people to do for a long while now, and it appears to be working (S2 claims they are "very impressed" with initial sales figures).

    Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with S2, nor am I a fan of their game, just their business model.

    • by Wiseman1024 (993899)
      Such a strategy is effective by design. This is the problem with businessmen. They think they are so clever with everything they do from abusing imaginary property and patents to cutting costs in quality, but they're actually making less money than a smarter person (who can be ungreedy, or just as greedy) would. Every time a businessman smiles after cutting some cost or forcing someone to pay more does because he's too stupid to realize what he has lost.

      Tag effectivebydesign
      • by FredFredrickson (1177871) * on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:35AM (#22181054) Homepage Journal
        Although it doesn't have to do with books or piracy, Ian Rogers has an interesting speech [fistfulayen.com] about "effective by design." His mantra is similar- those who embrace the scalability of the web instead of try to create scarcity will be the ones that profit.

        I feel it isn't ground breaking, but his little thing on physics really put into words what I've been feeling for a long time. Worth a read.
        • by alexgieg (948359) <alexgieg@gmail.com> on Friday January 25, 2008 @12:42PM (#22182698) Homepage
          On the subject of interesting articles, I love this one [mises.org] from 2004, by Mises Institute editor Jeffrey Tucker, where he explains why they allow everyone to download for free books which are under copyright, some of which they even had to pay the current copyright owners to be allowed to put online for free. In short: they understood that a book online is in fact an advertisement for the printed book, since most people prefer to have the real thing instead of reading on a CRT or LCD. Sure, he recognizes many people who download will never, ever, purchase printed copies. But then, who cares? The important thing is that the aggregate number of purchasers increase, what, to the amazement of the copyright owners to whom they paid for the right, in fact happened, with all of them seeing increased sales of the books available online. In any case, more people reading libertarian books means more libertarians on the long run. Thus, from all perspectives a win-win situation.

          I strongly recommend reading the full text. It's really worth it.
      • Could you or someone else just briefly remind me what about copyright law makes his business model impossible, and therefore enables this event to be an argument for eliminating or reducing copyright terms?

        Btw, given all the hatred of biased terminology, (Don't call it "Digital Rights Management"!!!!) I see you're not above the tactic when you refer to "imaginary property".

        Intellectual property is exactly as imaginary as physical property. Both refer to "rights". Rights are inherently intangible. And con
        • by orasio (188021) on Friday January 25, 2008 @12:25PM (#22182452) Homepage

          Btw, given all the hatred of biased terminology, (Don't call it "Digital Rights Management"!!!!) I see you're not above the tactic when you refer to "imaginary property".

          Intellectual property is exactly as imaginary as physical property. Both refer to "rights". Rights are inherently intangible. And contrary to their names, they both have physical ("real") referents.
          That's not the point. The issue is that actual property does have characteristics that "intellectual property" doesn't. Actual property is limited, while copyright and patents are unlimited. Thus, all the constructs around property can't be applied to them. That is what people who call them "property" try to do. They call it "property" so they can apply the rules of property to them, including creating false scarcity. That is just wrong. They are different things, so they can't have the same name, even if some people try to call them like that.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Foolicious (895952)

        Every time a businessman smiles after cutting some cost or forcing someone to pay more does because he's too stupid to realize what he has lost.

        I know there's limited space here, but that's quite a sweeping generalization, at least if I understood it correctly given the sketchy grammar. I'd say it's all about balance. Cutting costs and finding good ways to get people to pay more aren't always bad things. Businesses should be, if I can invoke a cliché, customer focused; however, if you're so focused on the customer that you don't make any money, well, then that's not really a business, is it? And if you don't mind businesses making money,

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Wow, that game looks pretty good. I'll definitely be downloading that tonight.
    • by Darthmalt (775250) on Friday January 25, 2008 @11:01AM (#22181394)
      At the very least this will get more people to look at their game. I've never heard of this one before but as soon as I saw it was free I decided to dl and try it. Maybe Ill get hooked and buy it or maybe ill get bored and delete it. Either way I haven't lost anything and they've gained a potential sale from someone who would never have even looked at the game before.
    • by penguin_dance (536599) on Friday January 25, 2008 @11:26AM (#22181716)
      Back in the day, Apogee games [3drealms.com] came up with a similar model. They put out the first in the series (usually 3 games) for free--I remember getting Commander Keen on a floppy disk with my joystick purchase. If you liked the first one, you could order the rest of the series for a nominal fee. It seemed to be a fairly successful business model.
    • Baen Free Library (Score:3, Informative)

      by 1c3mAn (532820)
      He definitely isn't the first to do this. The Publisher Baen has been doing it for years.

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

      Just read the comments by Eric Flint and see that the authors who have books in the Library have seen a significant increase in sales. Sure, most of the books are older, and just the first one or two books in the series, but if other readers are anything like I am, then if you read the first book in a series and like it. You will definitely consider buying the second on wards.

      Now the fact
  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:01AM (#22180640) Homepage
    Over and over and over again; We've stated that we believe that it doesn't matter if we can get it for free or not. What matters is that we like it. And in the cases of books, movies and music, if we love it, we will want to buy a copy to place on our shelves!

    I have yet to meet anyone with enormous digital collections of copyrighted works that didn't also have enormous physical collections of copyrighted works.

    This is yet another clear illustration of what really drives the consumer and forgetting about lawyers trying to justify their existence, let the MARKETERS take notice that this is most likely to be a very successful business model for the future.
    • by CastrTroy (595695) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:10AM (#22180728) Homepage
      I know tons of people. I know people with 20 GB of MP3s who don't own a single CD. I know people with spindle after spindle of burned movies who haven't bought a single DVD in their lives. I also know people who have downloaded tons of stuff but also buy a lot, and I've met people who have tons of bought stuff but don't download anything. And then there's people who are too wrapped up in something else, and don't read, listen to music, or watch movies, at least not unless it's broadcast on TV/Radio. I think that artists giving away their stuff for free, or asking for whatever the consumer thinks is a good price is a good thing, and will help them get noticed more easily. However, don't kid yourself into thinking that everyone will pay. There will always be people who will not pay. But I don't think the artists are losing much from those people anyway.
      • by MightyYar (622222) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:19AM (#22180870)

        But I don't think the artists are losing much from those people anyway.
        Exactly. You can't get blood from a stone, and a hoarder of movies/mp3s is going to do his hoarding. I grew up with a father who dubbed every movie that we rented and almost every movie that came onto HBO, almost reflexively. It was an impressive collection - almost never used, and one that ultimately cost the studios absolutely nothing.

        I think that the reason CD sales have taken such a dive is that single sales have made a comeback. People have complained for a long time that albums only contain one or two good songs. Buying those two songs as CD singles would have cost as much as the whole album, but now you can get both singles for $2 via a number of sources. It doesn't take a genius to see how going from a $15 sale to a $2 or maybe $3 sale is going to hurt the industry. When they attack piracy they are not addressing the problem. Hell, if I ever felt the slightest shred of guilt in pirating, the industry sure has cured that!
        • by sm62704 (957197)
          I grew up with a father who dubbed every movie that we rented and almost every movie that came onto HBO, almost reflexively. It was an impressive collection - almost never used, and one that ultimately cost the studios absolutely nothing.

          Patty? Is that you? [kuro5hin.org]

          -mcgrew
          (No spam for YOU!)
      • by Siener (139990)

        But I don't think the artists are losing much from those people anyway.

        Exactly ... and on the upside you are probably getting lots of free word of mouth marketing from them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Angst Badger (8636)
        But I don't think the artists are losing much from those people anyway.

        Indeed. The 16-year-old with a pirated copy of 3D Studio Max couldn't afford a legitimate copy if he or she wanted one. This is the problem with the absurd estimates of piracy losses groups like the BSA come up with. How many of those millions of copies of software would actually have been sold if they couldn't be pirated? Probably relatively few. The same applies to other media.

        Books probably do represent a special case to some extent,
    • "I have yet to meet anyone with enormous digital collections of copyrighted works that didn't also have enormous physical collections of copyrighted works."

      Well, I have. I don't agree with it, but there are certainly a lot of teenagers out there who regularly download gigabytes of music (some of which no doubt they will never even listen to) without the slightest intention of ever buying any. Of course a couple of the main people that I am thinking of are Canadian and the laws for downloading music are a
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mpe (36238)
        Well, I have. I don't agree with it, but there are certainly a lot of teenagers out there who regularly download gigabytes of music (some of which no doubt they will never even listen to) without the slightest intention of ever buying any.

        Which dosn't have any effect on record companies sales figures. There are three possibilities; download instead of buy; buy because of "previewing" through download and would just do without in the absence of a download. What actually matters for music sales is the first
    • Medium of Choice (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mike2R (721965) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:25AM (#22180936)
      But lets be honest here. Books are fundamentally different to music or movies or software. For the vast majority of readers, a physical book is the preferred medium, and you can't pirate these.

      Does this mean that it doesn't work like this for purely digital works? No, but it isn't evidence that it does either.
      • by kalirion (728907)
        For the vast majority of readers, a physical book is the preferred medium, and you can't pirate these.

        Sure you can. Just gotta kill a few trees to do it.
    • by Aladrin (926209)
      I don't give a rat's ass about the box sitting on my shelf. That's -never- been why I've bought something. Instead, I care about the work itself... Do I enjoy it? Do I think the author should be compensated? That's why I buy stuff.

      In fact, there's SO much out there now that I've come to the conclusion that if it's not worth obtaining legally, it's not worth my time.

      If an author (or other creator) is giving away their work, it has to be -very- good to convince me to also pay money for it. (Jonathan Cou
    • by oncehour (744756) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:30AM (#22181006)
      I've known for quite a while that piracy would be a great marketing tool. I actually wrote about the Creative Commons being a marketing tool on the popular writing e-zine "Writing World": Increase Your Market with a Creative Commons License [writing-world.com]

      Interesting fact with that article, shortly after writing it Moira Allen decided to post all of her hundreds of articles under the Creative Commons as well. The real revolutionary thing about the Creative Commons and piracy is the viral marketing side of it. Companies have known for a long time that giving away free samples is awesome marketing, they just tend to cost considerably but with digital media this can be negated to almost nothing.

      Sure some people don't buy your stuff, but in a lot of cases they wouldn't buy it anyway. You can also make up for a lower quality product by pirating it. For one thing it's off limits, for another it's free, and lastly it's obviously liked by other people otherwise it wouldn't be pirated. All these factors combine to make piracy and Open Licenses very powerful marketing tools that most companies are just missing out on.

      I've actually covered the benefits of Philanthropic Marketing [dynamicmar...utions.com] on my blog. This includes Open Source, Open Licensing, and just plain helping out in the community to foster a stronger community and help it thrive. A lot of the FOSS crowd seems to be a bit socialistic in their viewpoints and try to convert people that way. I prefer to cater to their greed and self-interest which we all have and which FOSS and sharing in general are compatible with.

      If anyone's interested in learning more or getting help with a philanthropic marketing campaign drop me a line at the email address mentioned on my blog.
    • by wwwillem (253720)
      I have yet to meet anyone with enormous digital collections of copyrighted works that didn't also have enormous physical collections of copyrighted works.

      Fully agreed, although there is often a "time shift". When I was 18 I had stacks of compact cassettes (the 1980s variant of MP3 :-), By the time I was 38 I had a much bigger stack of CDs on the shelf and the cassettes had left the house through the garbage bin. In modern MP3 terms the latter probably corresponds with "oops, my harddisk crashed and I forgot
  • by stjobe (78285) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:04AM (#22180670) Homepage
    Baen Free Library [baen.com] has had much the same experience. Give it away free, sales go up.
    • Baen also sells ebooks - DRM free, multiple formats, and relatively inexpensive. http://www.webscription.net/ [webscription.net]

      Also, they publish, with some of their books, the Baen CD - a CD containing all of the Free Library, the book you just bought, and a whole bunch of others, typically by that individual author. And the license is great - you can do anything you want with the cd - copy, give away - EXCEPT sell it. http://oberon.zlynx.org/ [zlynx.org] has all of them, with links to other distribution sites, all PERFECTLY LEGAL.

      J
  • by Splab (574204) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:05AM (#22180678)
    consider this. When you read a book its natural for you to sit with it, printed, preferably in some handy format where you turn pages. It makes sense to let people try before they buy. Personally I sit in my La-Z-Boy with a pot of tea, its nice comfy and let me really enter the world(s) of the book.

    Music however got digitized. People don't own high end equipment any longer because the sound will still suck, we are used to music being digital and convenient. A lot of people have gotten used to the idea of music being something massively stored in a box on the network. When you got the music in digital format pirated you don't get any additional value by buying the CD.

    RIAA/MPAA still need to get their act together and treat their costumers with respect. (He talks about getting to know your audience)

    On a side note, I'm definitely grabbing a copy of the book (as in printed kind from a store) to check it out.
    • [quote]When you got the music in digital format pirated you don't get any additional value by buying the CD.[/quote] Sure you do, some of my favorite albums have the best album art. Besides if you only listen to your digital pirated copies, you'll have a perfectly unscratched, original CD to keep as an archive. There are other neat tricks they can put into the authentic purchase of the CD, like getting to buy concert tickets a few days in advance if you can show you bought the disc.

      I'm not saying it's some
    • by Nursie (632944)

      Bull poop.

      It works exactly the same way.

      Maybe not for people younger than my generation (I'm 29) who are growing up around digital music, but everyone I know who like music has large electronic collections as a convenience, but buys loads in cd form either beforehand and ripping, or after downloading. You listen, you like it, you want the cd.
    • by Kamineko (851857)

      When you got the music in digital format pirated you don't get any additional value by buying the CD.


      Obvious solution: put things on or with the CD that would increase the value but would be difficult to reproduce. Say... all of the seperate tracks used to mix the song in infinite quality FLAC format, perchance? :)
    • by PrescriptionWarning (932687) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:21AM (#22180890)
      I hate to sound like some big businessman who clearly knows nothing but buzzwords, but perhaps Games as a Service (much like software as a service) is kinda the way to go. Now maybe I don't know what that really means, but if I could just point to an example such as Ubuntu. Its free. However they still make money from selling tech support among other things. So why can't games do the same? Give away the free single player game, then charge for the online, either once or as a subscription (much as was said earlier about Savage 2). Course I guess it would simply turn all games into MMO games in essense, plus single player game content would take a back seat to the multiplay content, so games like MassEffect wouldn't appear as attractive. I suppose in the end, its entirely up to the developer and the game at hand to determine the most optimal pricing structure, because one structure for all games simply cannot work.
      • This is not a "give it away, charge for extras" or Game as a service - It's a free trial

        The game itself is only playable for 5 hours before you need to register (and pay) and it call this a Demo

        This is more like Demoware than Game as a service ...

        But saying that it will work since the boxed copy you buy just sits on a shelf and the downloaded game is exactly the same, like the music industry they are selling something that can be downloaded easier than buying it, so the way of stopping freeloaders (pirates)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nebu (566313)

        Give away the free single player game, then charge for the online, either once or as a subscription

        This would essentially kill adventure games (Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, etc.), and single player, story oriented RPGs (e.g. Chrono Trigger) -- two of my favorite genres.

        Has anyone ever made a decent (massively?) multiplayer adventure game? (This is not rhetorical, but a genuine inquiry of curiosity)

    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      That was my first thought too. Just because this works for books, it doesn't necessarily follow that it will also work for music/movies/software. A digital book still has to be printed out (unless you want to read it on some crappy ebook reader, which still suck) to be read comfortably. Often it's worth buying just to avoid the hassle (giving you a nice paper, binding, quality printing, etc.). The same cannot be said for music and other formats which are actually WORSE on their purchased counterparts (who w
    • by dasunt (249686)

      Er, did music start to suck because it became digital, or did music start to suck because of the loudness war [wikipedia.org]?

      Also, I do like to buy CDs due to album art and a wish to support the artist.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by vajaradakini (1209944)
      It makes sense to let people try before they buy.

      I think this is also why bookstores put comfy armchairs in the aisles near the books. Well, that and the fact that the longer people stay in the store, the more likely they are to buy more things.

      I disagree about the cds though. There is a bit to be gained, usually a cd will have the booklet with lyrics and artwork and all this and that. Plus with the cd, you can put it into any digital format you want, but I'm not sure you can convert .mp3 files i
    • by niceone (992278)
      Hmm, yeah, hasn't worked for me..... yet :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sm62704 (957197)
      History says you're wrong. Here's how your post would have looked 2k years ago:

      When you read a scroll its natural for you to sit with it, hand-printed, preferably in some handy format where you unroll and roll. It makes sense to let people try before they buy. Personally I sit in my bed with a pot of wine, its nice comfy and let me really enter the world(s) of the scroll.

      [1500 years later]

      Music however got recorded. People don't own musical instruments any longer because the sound will still suck, we are us
  • On a related subject (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Robotech_Master (14247) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:06AM (#22180690) Homepage Journal
    I'm going to be interviewing Phil & Kaja Foglio live this weekend [terrania.us] about this very issue: why they decided to stop selling individual print issues of their Girl Genius [girlgeniusonline.com] comic book and turn it into a free webcomic to sell more trade paperbacks and hardcover collections. Call in [terrania.us] with questions of your own.
  • by NorbrookC (674063) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:08AM (#22180718) Journal

    He's not the first author to notice that "giving away" (quotes intended) your books via the Internet leads to increased sales. This might be called an extension of what Baen discovered several years ago. Let people read your books "for free," don't stick restrictions on them, and quite a number of them will end up purchasing those books and others by the author.

    I think he's one of the first to really show that encouraging "piracy" actually leads to increased book sales. Obviously, you have to be a good writer in the first place - if your stuff sucks, it doesn't matter whether you give it away or not - but if you are, it'll encourage people to read what you're writing, and buy your books. Somehow, I think that this will get lost on the "suits" at the major publishers, though.

    • by dintech (998802) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:20AM (#22180880)

      Somehow, I think that this will get lost on the "suits" at the major publishers, though.
      Of course. For some reason these people have a concrete rule in their head that says:

      one copy = one lost sale

      I don't know where this logic comes from...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by robot_love (1089921)

      Obviously, you have to be a good writer in the first place - if your stuff sucks, it doesn't matter whether you give it away or not

      This is actually one of the reasons that some artists are scared of this business model. In the traditional author / publisher / reader model, an author only has to impress the publisher (who shoulders the risk of failure). In this new model, if you suck, you suck, and you will know it. No other entity will screen you financially from failure.

      It's a bit scary, but it'

  • No Substitute (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DigitalisAkujin (846133) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:10AM (#22180742) Homepage
    There is no and never will be (in the foreseeable future) a substitute for printed paper books.
    This is why people will continue to buy books and how publishers should be making money in this new economy.
    • by eMartin (210973)
      If the movies are any indication, we will one day be able to carry around a single sheet of transparent(!) material that will be able to display anything and be read by holding it up against a light background.

      I can't see how books can stand up against something like that.
  • Not the first. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mnslinky (1105103)
    Musicians have had to do this for quite some time. They start off making their music, putting up a free MySpace or other page and letting people listen to their music for free. Then, when there's a following, they may start making money off of it. How is this guy really any different, aside from a different medium?

    Also, being that he's got a publisher, I wouldn't be surprised if his actions were actionable in a legal sense on their part. In this case it seems to have worked out for the best for all part
  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:15AM (#22180820) Homepage
    After all, Abbie Hoffman's "Steal This Book" sold well.
  • Getting attention (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dhope (782142) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:19AM (#22180864)
    The success of this tactic shouldn't come as a surprise. Without popularity/attention, financial success is impossible. What follows is that authors/artists must first do what ever to gain attention. After they have got the attention of the masses, then it shouldn't be too difficult to find ways to make money. While mere attention does not implicate income, it is a requirement for income.
  • by JBHarris (890771) <`moc.fsi' `ta' `sirrahb'> on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:19AM (#22180874)

    About fifty percent of the human race is middle men and they don't take kindly to being eliminated.
    --Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of Serenity
    This is the where the music labels and book & video game publishers fit. Think about it when you see the RIAA fighting to survive. That is their purpose. The tubes have made them non-important. If your only purpose for existing was being made irrelevant by some new technology, wouldn't you fight that with everything you had? I'm not saying I agree with it, but it certainly gives you insight into the reasons "WHY".

    Brad
  • Same for Education (Score:5, Interesting)

    by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:23AM (#22180908) Journal
    This is what I've been saying for a long time to the people I work with. I work for a medium-sized community college, and one of my jobs is creating media for our online classes, videos, podcasts, narrated powerpoints, etc. We have so many instructors that are worried about protecting their "intellectual property," as if it was academic gold. I tell them make you stuff open, share it with the public. Who cares if somebody at some other college uses our stuff? That only makes us look better. The one guy we have here that is actually doing what I'm saying has TONS of chemistry videos on Google Video, and as a result receives feedback from all over the world, and has been asked to speak at a few conferences because of it.
  • It is well known that libraries that freely loan books caused the book publishing business to collapse. .... Wait, that's not right.

    We need a better theoretical model of intellectual property. Somehow the generally accepted ideas have been shown again and again to be wildly wrong. It is really stupid that most people don't seem to notice that they have to change their thinking.
  • Paulo Coelho ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Qetu (732155) <adolfo.nieto@gmail.com> on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:33AM (#22181038)
    Paulo Coelho leapt out of obscurity? WTF?

    from wikipedia:

    Coelho has sold over 100 million books in over 150 countries worldwide and his works have been translated into 66 languages (Goodyear, Dana (2007-05-07), "The Magus", The New Yorker: 38-45, ). He has received numerous literary awards from a variety of countries, including La Legion d'Honneur (France), Grinzane Cavour (Italy). In addition, he has written Maktub[5], which is a collection of his best columns published in the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo, The Manual of a Warrior of Light, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept[6], The Fifth Mountain, Veronika Decides to Die, The Devil and Miss Prym, Eleven Minutes, Like The Flowing River and The Valkyries[7].
    • by gaspyy (514539) on Friday January 25, 2008 @11:15AM (#22181570)
      Just to clarify - Coelho was very popular long before his blog. I know some of his fans, and none of them even knows he has a blog. Come to think of it, I don't even think his target audience is into reading blogs.

      I am willing to bet that releasing the books in electronic format for free hasn't increased his popularity by more than 1%.

      Disclaimer: I can't really stand his novels. They are pretty light, claiming and trying to seem deeper and more meaningful. Umberto Eco he clearly ain't.
  • Over-hype (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ackthpt (218170) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:36AM (#22181066) Homepage Journal
    When a company does this it's a Promotion. So why is this pirating when an individual does it?
  • by matt_morgan (220418) <mattNO@SPAMcncrt.net> on Friday January 25, 2008 @11:04AM (#22181428) Homepage
    Everything works some of the time. This is not an obscure author, but an extremely famous one. Radiohead is an extremely famous band. I bet if we really surveyed how often giving away content helps sales, we'd see that it helps some people, and not others. If we could even compare to a control, which is unlikely.

    The usual model for giving away content works like this:

    1) I can't compete with the bigger brands in my area, so I'll give away what I have for free.
    2) The quality of my work will establish me, and fame (eg user base) will lead to big things.

    It worked for PHP, but you can't say it worked for PostgreSQL, which was based on something that was famous already. Ditto for Radiohead and Coelho. They're not a good model for most of us.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    One day at work a number of years ago, someone suggested I read The Alchemist. A couple weeks later, I was sitting in my livingroom and looked over at a pile of my roommate's things and right there in the pile was The Alchemist and another of Paulo Coelho's books. I read them both. I suppose you could say I "pirated" them, but if you knew my roommate at the time you'd be more inclined to say that I rescued them.
  • Even to this day, I think many companies have been struggling with how to effectivly incorporate the Internet into their business model. This guy jumped out of obscurity by doing it. This is clearly a win for those people who support fewer and fewer copyright restrictions, but I wonder if he'll do the same with his next book. This is a common trend in music, musicians love the Internet when they're not popular, but look at it as public enemy number 1 when they are. It opens your talent up to a wider spectru
  • Word of Mouth (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sjbe (173966) on Friday January 25, 2008 @11:25AM (#22181684)
    Giving away some copies to create interest/hype is an ancient tactic. Sounds like this was a fairly clever astroturfing [wikipedia.org] campaign. People have a bit of a herd mentality when it comes to deciding what is popular. If they perceive that something is in demand, they want to find out what the fuss is about. They will often declare it interesting or desirable more because others say it is rather than judging objectively on merit. (exhibit A: Paris Hilton) Arguably the most powerful advertising message there is is "everyone else is doing it". Sounds silly (because it is) but it works VERY well.

    One way to think about it is that this instance of astroturfing was a way to create activation energy" [wikipedia.org] necessary to get the "popularity reaction" going. If there is no word of mouth because no one has a copy of the book (or other media) it will probably just sit on shelves and never sell. This fellow was clever enough to create a little artificial demand that turned into the real thing. Just a well done example of a cleverly run public relations [wikipedia.org] campaign. Done right it is very effective and much cheaper than advertising.
  • Oddly enough (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Friday January 25, 2008 @11:29AM (#22181746) Journal
    I tried convincing my Ex to do just this. I was amazed that her attitude was that she did not want anybody stealing her work. But when I pointed out that it might make you a well known name, she STILL did not want to do it.
  • by BlackCreek (1004083) on Friday January 25, 2008 @11:36AM (#22181828)

    Paulo Coelho obscure?

    Yet another proof that slashdot editors really don't control anything that gets posted here

    Paulo Coelho has sold around 100 million books on 150 countries and has been translated to more than 66 languages http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paulo_Coelho [wikipedia.org]. Somehow the bozo submiting stories will credit all of that to torrent publicity? Check out (in the portuguese wikipedia) http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paulo_Coelho [wikipedia.org] the number of international prises he got way before torrents were in any way popular. Please just read the list of prises he got BEFORE 2000.

    Yeah, obscure all the way. Indeed.

    BTW, what's the name of that obscure comedy writer that released a book on the internet, and after he got famous, decided not to do that again? Oh, yeah that would be (otherwise unknown) Scott Adams http://www.themillionsblog.com/2007/11/giving-it-away-for-free.html [themillionsblog.com] ... Another usurper of the torrent comunity no doubt!

  • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Friday January 25, 2008 @11:46AM (#22181938) Homepage Journal
    I've been saying it for years here and on a variety of sites and print publications: anything that can be copied easily should be given away from the start: recorded music, e-books, stock photography, whatever.

    I've also been doing it for years: I've declined to copyright anything I've written, designed, or produced digitally, for about 10 years. In that time, I've made "pots of money" because of it. Why? It's a marketing tool. Give it away, have people use it or reference it, and build your reputation to sell your labors for future projects.

    I can't believe others don't do it. I helped a few local bands reach national prominence (magazines, MTV2, etc) by giving away their recorded music in exchange for building a fan-base who would buy their not-so-easily-copied dookie at shows. It works.

    I've maintained blogs that have driven people to my subscription-only print newsletter, which I then tell people to give away when they're done reading it. Guess what? That, too, has brought more subscribers.

    The future is not about piracy, it's about marketability. You should NEVER hope to make money on something you've already done, but on what you can do. When people see your ability, they'll be more captive in hiring you for a future need. That's where you make your money. If you're an author, give away that e-book: people hate reading things electronically still, and will probably decide to just buy that $10 printed novel or how-to book. Books are cheap to produce now, even one-offs. My print-on-demand supplier has been offering me paperbacks for under $4 printed, so I can sell it for $11 and make a reasonable profit. What's the problem with understanding that?

    I'm still shocked at how many content-creators and artists don't want to give away their old works to build future profits. They're too protective of their intellectual property, and unwilling to accept that we're all whores for profit but usually unwilling to actually work hard to earn that profit. I can't begin to count how many "artists" work their rears off to try to become that one hit wonder rather than embracing the idea that working for your entire life is a better end-goal. It's a risk versus reward belief that I stumbled across when I was much younger: why risk putting everything into the hope that you'll be the lucky one out of a million to hit it big on a single item?
  • Kindle? (Score:3, Funny)

    by gwoodrow (753388) on Friday January 25, 2008 @12:07PM (#22182226)
    What's all this talk about the book being an unconquerable medium? Have you not seen Amazon's Kindle? It is an absolute masterpiece of... hahahahahaha! Golly, I almost made it through the whole speech with a straight face...
  • by toriver (11308) on Friday January 25, 2008 @02:32PM (#22184548)
    I don't mind having to pay for copyrighted works, but then the copyright holders should also have a DUTY to actually provide me with a copy. Case in point: The board game "Gunslinger" by then-publisher Avalon Hill. The company is owned by Hasbro now, but if I walk into a game store I cannot find a copy - all those made have sold out. So where can I pay and get the work in question? Only second-hand, the market that some copyright work providers appear to loathe.

    "Out of print" should NOT be an option. Either the law should mandate copies be made to satisfy demand, OR the copyright should be revoked if they refused, and enter the public domain where works of art are supposed to go eventually anyway, so that others can make the copies needed.
  • by davecb (6526) * <davec-b@rogers.com> on Friday January 25, 2008 @02:53PM (#22184896) Homepage Journal
    [Left as a comment on the blog]
    I've had much the same experience with electronic distribution,
    except in a much smaller scale. I was the co-author of the first
    edition of O'Reilly's "Using Samba", which was published under a
    free documntation license, and a copy was included in every
    download of the Samba program.

    Using Samba was O'Reilly's best seller of the period, and jumped
    by all the other Samba books of the day.

    It seems that people were printing small sections, making
    notes in the margin, and then buying the professionally
    printed book to have it in a portable format,
    but not to have to carry around huge inconvenient lumps of paper.

    --dave

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