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The Media Books Media

Internet Publishing Can Pay Off 161

An anonymous reader writes "Leander Kahney of Wired News has an article (Net Publishing Made Profitable) about how the publishers of the free, online newsletter TidBITS have hit the jackpot with their highly focused Take Control ebook series (nicely formatted PDFs that are easy to read on screen or print). Authors earn 50% royalties, and the books cost $5 or $10, with free updates. All the books out right now are about Mac topics, but maybe they'll branch out in the future."
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Internet Publishing Can Pay Off

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  • by melted ( 227442 ) on Friday August 13, 2004 @10:16PM (#9965037) Homepage
    Now these books will appear on every god damn P2P network out there.
    • well, good think they're mac books ;)
    • by Synesthesiatic ( 679680 ) on Friday August 13, 2004 @10:39PM (#9965152) Homepage
      Now these books will appear on every god damn P2P network out there.

      For those too lazy to RTFA: None of the books has any kind of copy protection, though Adobe's PDF format contains various digital-rights management mechanisms. "It's not worth doing it all, because it just causes problems," Engst said.
      ...Engst asks his customers to treat the books as they would physical books: Feel free to share with a couple of friends, but don't post them on the Net. Engst has been aware of no abuse, and none of the books has shown up on file-sharing networks.

      Now admittedly I download now and then, but in this instance we've got a content producer that is:
      - Small and independent
      - Compensating writers fairly
      - Charging a very reasonable price
      - Choosing not to use DRM, despite having the option to do so, and even *gasp* encouraging people to share with their friends.

      I have nothing but contempt for someone that would violate the copyright on this. After all, isn't this the direction the Slashthink wants the music industry to take?

      • But the content's got to be worth it ;). We've got this new tech that can copy things all over and circulate ideas like wildfire, yet money always gets in the way because writers have got to eat.

        I think they'd make more money by providing the books for the cost of download ($2 or $3 a e-book) and then offering exclusive paperbacks/hardbacks to people who want them at $20 or $30 a pop, or they can offer books that'll last forever for mroe. After a year, they begin throwing books up free to download with
        • by Synesthesiatic ( 679680 ) on Friday August 13, 2004 @11:12PM (#9965293) Homepage
          Frankly, without DRM authors will be doomed, and with DRM people will be doomed since multinationals will seek to lisence everything. I can't really see any middleground right now. People really can't make money selling intangible objects like data because once data is created it can be copied at nearly no cost. They can make money at selling tangible objects, like paperbacks, however.

          But it's been shown time and time again that the DRM is just big media's security blanket. CSS, FairPlay and Adobe's eBook DRM have all been cracked. Sure there's some technical knowledge required, but it only takes one person to share it on Kazaa before it's everywhere. Does this mean big media (the greedy middlemen, in most cases) is doomed? Possibly.

          But that doesn't necessarily mean artists are left out in the cold. I know it might be hard to remember in the iTunes age, but I remember the first online music store worth giving a crap about was eMusic [], because it was the only major player without major DRM restrictions (and it actually had none, since it used MP3s). We don't hear much about eMusic anymore, but the fact that it's still around says something: there's money to be made selling unprotected content. Maybe the multi-millionaire musicians are in danger, but as a whole I think artists might just come out on top by replacing the recording industry with an indie label and an online music store.

        • The problem is that small print runs have extremly high per-unit costs. You would be looking at a run of several thousand paperbacks, and even more for hardbacks, to be able to offer them at any kind of sane price.
          • tm


            Per-unit costs can be reasonable even for single-copy runs. Actually there's at least one machine specializing in single-copy runs, but I can't find that company on Google right now...
            • Did you even bother to read the links? The machine costs $65,000. At $20 a pop, and figuring, say, $7.50 per book for the paper, ink, parts, power, labor, etc, that's a profit of $12.50 per book. Which means you'd need to sell over 4,000 copies before you could even think about breaking even, much less MAKING money.
              • I don't think anyone RTFA. It doesn't say anything about them hitting the jackpot (ie making money) yet. Only that the business has just started up, and a description on how they hope to hit the jackpot (make money). The /. ubermods are clearly drunk again...perhaps with hubris. That, and they appear to have a twisted fetish for idiot stories from idiot people who didn't RTFA or score poorly on reading comprehension...
          • Red Hat co-founder Bob Young's current venture is They are geared to print on demand self publishing.
        • >I think they'd make more money by providing the books for the cost of download ($2 or $3 a e-book) and then offering exclusive paperbacks/hardbacks to people who want them at $20 or $30 a pop, or they can offer books that'll last forever for more.

          If someone did that, I'd print hardbacks in China and sell them on eBay at $10 a pop.
          • I sure hope you're not advocating taking someone's else's creative effort, printing it in China from a digital copy you bought and underpricing them by selling on EBAY. That's copyright infringement, and if you did it to me, I'd sue your ass into the ground. The current penalty is $150,000 per copy.

            I don't see how you'd do better by printing in China and then selling on Ebay because books are HEAVY and cost a lot to ship. the whole idea of charging extra for shipping is one thing, but Amazon and Barnes
        • We've got this new tech that can copy things all over and circulate ideas like wildfire, yet money always gets in the way because writers have got to eat.

          Actually it's the writers who get in the way. Don't anthropomorphize money. It's the writers who decide to wait until they find someone willing to pay them before they release their works.
    • by huchida ( 764848 ) on Saturday August 14, 2004 @01:21AM (#9965706)
      Now these books will appear on every god damn P2P network out there.

      With titles like "Take Control of Email with Apple Mail" and "Take Control of What's New in Entourage 2004", I seriously doubt there're many P2P users interested in the titles. If they can figure out how to access the networks in OSX (which takes a bit more savviness than downloading Kazaa for Windows) they probably have enough knowledge to "master" their e-mail programs. (Who's using Entourage anymore, anyway? I didn't know they even updated it!)

      Anyone else think these books are overpriced, considering the low-level topics? Ten dollars for an electronic pamphlet on how to share files in Panther? I just bought a three hundred page (real) book on DVD Studio Pro for twenty!
      • Anyone else think these books are overpriced, considering the low-level topics? Ten dollars for an electronic pamphlet on how to share files in Panther? I just bought a three hundred page (real) book on DVD Studio Pro for twenty!

        Only you can decide if any one book is overpriced, of course, but "Take Control of Sharing Files in Panther []" is 104 pages, highly detailed, completely searchable, and comes with free updates for that $10. And it's not a low-level book by any means; it has instructions for reco

      • by eggboard ( 315140 ) * on Saturday August 14, 2004 @11:06AM (#9967148) Homepage
        I wrote the file sharing book, so I'll respond to you directly. It's not an electronic pamphlet. It's over 100 pages of focused advice. It's $10 because that was the optimum price that allows us to sell a relatively small number of books (about 2,000 so far) while compensating me in a reasonable manner for the time it took to write it, and the ongoing time I spend in answering email and revising it. It's actually worked out perfectly.

        The book isn't (as I noted in another Slashdot post), select this menu item, click start, next task. I explain how to modify Apache to set up WebDAV under Mac OS X. I have details on creating custom Samba shares. I explain the bugs in Apple's implementation of lukemftpd which prevents proper use of chroot and how to get around it.

        Low-level topics these ain't if you've seen the book. This thread on Slashdot has given us a lot of good feedback, but the critique is all coming from people who are IMAGINING what's in the books, not actually looking at the site, downloading the free samples, and then responding.

        The economics of publishing are really weird, too. The DVD Studio Pro book you bought for $20 gives a royalty of between $1.50 and $3 to the author or authors per copy sold. The book has to sell over 10,000 copies at that price and size to really make any money for the publisher. If the author worked alone, they might wind up making between $30 and $50 an hour for their time. Not bad at all, but not a massive return.

        We're producing these niche -- not low-level -- books for intermediate users who need specific information and don't want to buy $40 and $50 exhaustive books. The exhaustive books are great for general reference, but my file sharing book has details that I was unable to find in any of the giant Panther books: they perversely don't have the space to cover every scenario in each topic because they have to cover EVERY topic.
        • First off, I'm a writer too and I also would like to be fairly compensated. However, two points perhaps you might consider.

          One, why should someone pay ten dollars for a book that might only be worth five to them. Or, in other words, why are author's (creator's) financial needs more important than their audience's requirements and ability to pay?

          Two, the economics of publishing include the economics of scale. By setting the price point at the point of maximum return relies on many assumptions. I have found
          • Good points.

            Re: One: This is sort of the Glenn Gould argument, that an artist holds the audience in a tyranny, but he was talking about performance. Really, the only answer is the market response. If what we charged for our time and efforts weren't repaid by sales of the book and positive response, we'd have to change our position. But the market (so far) has spoken.

            Re: Two: Elsewhere in this thread, I and Adam Engst, one of the two people responsible for the Take Control series, have talked about how the
  • Music (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macdaddy ( 38372 ) on Friday August 13, 2004 @10:16PM (#9965038) Homepage Journal
    I've often wondered why this very business method wouldn't work in the music business. Part of the problem, I think, is that music success nowadays is too dependant on radio. The whole indy process keeps those that can't afford to push bribe their way into radio stations from being heard. I think this is a business method that Apple should embrace with iTunes. The artist could pay $X dollars to sell their music on iTunes. The artist could then make 50% of the procedes. Apple could even charge to burn the music to CDs and mail it out. I think this would work very well.
    • music success nowadays is too dependant on radio. The whole indy process keeps those that can't afford to push bribe their way into radio stations from being heard.

      That's why college radio rules! I used to think it was a bunch of weird noise and crap, but as I've matured, I find a great deal of new music from the college radio stations. I rarely stray right of 92 on the FM dial. Then agian, perhaps I'm just lucky to live in Atlanta, where we have several wonderfully diverse stations on the lower end of the

    • The artist could then make 50% of the procedes

      You've even guessed correctly the percentage that the artist gets from each sale.

      As long as they cover the genre's that you like, they've got some great music. Highly recommended.

    • Re:Music (Score:4, Informative)

      by nkh ( 750837 ) <> on Saturday August 14, 2004 @12:18AM (#9965512) Journal
      But Magnatune [] has a lot of great music you can try before you buy, it's cheap (between $5 and 18$, it's for you to decide), you can choose your own file format once you have paid: Vorbis, mp3, FLAC, WAV... and the artists get 50% of the price.
  • Windows for Linux Users! Text File format Only.

    Ahem - First Post :-D
  • by oostevo ( 736441 ) on Friday August 13, 2004 @10:18PM (#9965050) Homepage
    This is great news for internet publishers and people who like to read books on the internet, but I'd be quite interested to know the effects of offering a book online for free while concurrently releasing it in print, like several of our favorite computer manuals.
  • eBooks are great. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by g-to-the-o-to-the-g ( 705721 ) on Friday August 13, 2004 @10:23PM (#9965079) Homepage Journal
    I personally love ebooks. I have a $100 Palm m500, which has a backlight, so I can read without having to worry about the lighting or turning the page. Not to mention, I can have 50 books on a SD card. Why more people haven't caught on, I don't know. My favourite part is laying in bed and reading until I fall asleep (which is convenient, seeing as the thing powers itself off eventually, and I don't have to worry about the lights).

    Aswell, I've heard other people criticize the whole ebook thing because they think its not as clear (to look at) or something. If you doubt me, you should just walk into a best buy or something and play with them yourself.

    • Reasons this type of ebook was an abysmal failure:
      • proprietary formats
      • expensive readers, which may be obsolete instantly, and require you to buy into a format that may fail
      • digital books that are sold at the same price as paper books, even though for most purposes, most people prefer paper
      • tiny, lame catalogs
      • by gidds ( 56397 )
        The key there is when you said 'this type'. I agree that e-books as something in a proprietary format, which only work on dedicated machines, is stupid.

        However, e-books as I use and love 'em are a very different beast. I have a large library (>100MB) of stuff in Palm DOC format -- an open format, easily convertible to/from plain text. (This means I can edit the texts as needed to fix formatting, errors, convert to British English spellings, &c.) I keep them on my Psion 5mx -- a PDA that I alrea

    • I have an m515, and a kyocera smartphone with whats basically equivalent built in.. I've read some ebooks, and found that it annoyed my eyes, too muchh of it gives me a headach. It's just a little bit too small. Guess I'm getting too old.

      It's convenient to have on site, I got a bunch of relevent technical manuals, but dead tree is still much easier on my eyes. Maybe a device about the size of a paperback, maybe one the size of a hardback too for when my vision deteriorates a little more.

      Stupid CRTs.
      • I've had a Palm IIIxe, a Sony T415, and a Zaurus C7x0 - and I enjoy reading on all of them.

        I think the key point, is that it be easy on the eyes. If you're reading in bed, with all the lights out - the backlight has to be very dim. I can turn the backlight on my c7x0 down enough that it's pretty nice - but even though its screen is much higher resolution than the other two, the other two are better at being read for long periods of time (in the dark). That's not to say I don't do it and enjoy it, but I
  • Yes, but (Score:2, Insightful)

    Mac users like/can pay for stuff.

    Beginning with their ridiculously overpriced PPC's, to iTunes, shareware software...

    Your typical Linux geek or Windows pirate isn't really used to the concept of "paying for computer stuff". He just downloads it. Can it work?

    Then again, good weblogs can lead to dead-trees publishing deals. I hope someone will pick me up some time :)
    • Re:Yes, but (Score:2, Interesting)

      You're gonna get EATEN alive by the mods. But you hit the nail on the head. I've lost a lot of mod points myself trying to explain to people,that the only reason Apple can do the things it does is because there is a legion of fanboys willing to purchase whatever stupid idea steve jobs dreams up at a 30% markup. Apple is a *BRAND* like Nike. For my money I'd rather wear my insanely comfortable TX Traction shoes which cost 39.99 instead of Nike's which cost 3x as much. Same damn thing with my computer.
      • Ehh, you deserve to get eaten alive by the mods. Sneakers are not a valid comparison at all. Do you really believe that having a completely different OS is the same as having slightly different shoes?

        (don't mod this up, it's a 1 minute response)
      • Re:Yes, but (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        So, you make that sound like a bad thing.

        Mac users are scavengers -- when I'm in geek mode, I build computers with scraps. When I want something that works without having to think about it -- I go with a Mac.

        Is it a brand? Fuck yes its a brand. Why do folks go with certain brands? Because they are built well enough that they have gone past just making them work, they make them look good too. I know PC users that have bought great looking PC components and thought that was all there was to the Mac Fan
        • I reread that, I should have previewed (but then it wouldn't be /. -- I make sure I turn off Safari's spell check before I show up here).

          The opening lines should be:

          Mac users are NOT scavengers.

          Changes the whole idea...
        • Re:Yes, but (Score:3, Insightful)

          Amen to that!

          I'm a new convert to the Mac religion, after about 7 years of Linux at home and Windows at work, and many years of DOS and Windows before that. I just picked up my first Mac (a Powerbook) recently. The first thing I noticed when I opened the box was the power adapter. Yes, the power adapter. It impressed the hell out of me, mostly because of what it boded for the design of the rest of the system. When something as seemingly mundane as the power adapter displays the elegance of design, and thou

          • Re:Yes, but (Score:3, Insightful)

            by clifyt ( 11768 )
            Gawd damn, don't remind me of the power adapter.

            I'm renovating part of my work area, and now I've got to go out and buy an apple white surge protector. The only one actually looks good, but compared to the Apple stuff plugged into it, it looks shitty.

            I was just thinking about this last night as I was tinting my new desk and chairs. Normally, I'd have just ignored this stuff...but damn...even the power supply looks good enough you'd be an idiot not to upgrade the rest if you like aesthetics.

            Looks ain't
    • Re:Yes, but (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lavaface ( 685630 ) on Friday August 13, 2004 @10:47PM (#9965184) Homepage
      I'm cheap. Well, poor. But I bought a Powerbook (with student loans : ) because video work on a PC blows. For many users a Mac is overpriced. But for folks that like a machine that offers a smooth user experience with well-designed apps [] bundled, it's a dream.
      • I'm still puzzling over this comment that keeps coming up again and again. I bought my current Macintosh in 1999. It is running the current Apple operating system. I did max out the RAM and I did get a faster processor for my box but that was all planned when I purchased it. I figure to get a solid five to six years out of my one Macintosh and that is a lot more life than you get out of a pee cee -- assuming you want to run current software.

        Apple computers are easier to use and learn. There are costs assoc

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 13, 2004 @10:27PM (#9965098)
    Mac users are used to paying for things. Software, shareware, etc. Linux users expect everything for free, and Windows users just pirate it.
  • PDF Books Online... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Liskl ( 793809 )
    based on this news here i'd love to see more of my favorite e-zines to be in pdf format

    i know others i've talked to would love them in downloadable pdf format even if we had to pay for them

    what do other /.'ers think about using txt and pdf for there following issues
    • pdf is good for many things. and with adobe's tagged pdf's that's ok but for small files/zines like phrack and 2600, txt is ok. If you could include in the tagged pdf the code in the actual "example.cpp" and have tiff schematics that would seriously be awesome.

      not sure if it'll change, but i'd pay for the 2600 one. and maybe phrack if they substantially changed their format to include binaries, code and images that were embedded into the document.

      just perhaps
  • Doesn't Always Work (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oasis3582 ( 698323 ) on Friday August 13, 2004 @10:35PM (#9965135)
    Just look at when Stephen King tried to do a similar system with "The Plant." Sales were so abysmal that he didnt even finish it after writing a few parts.

    See the story l []
    • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Friday August 13, 2004 @10:47PM (#9965182) Homepage
      IIRC, sales were actually OK, but not as high as the target he'd set. It was a very atypical case anyway, because he was such a popular author. His books normally sold a lot of copies, and he expected to make a boatload of money off of each one. It's a whole different story for most authors. Most authors are only supplementing their income by writing books anyway.

      It's also no secret that digital books can be a big failure if you choose the wrong model. Maybe his model (donate, or I'll stop writing chapters) was simply a bad one. Personally, I think it sounds like a huge hassle to have to pay the author periodically to read each chapter, after it's been so long that I've probably forgotten what happened in the last chapter.

      • All true, but in my case, I bought the first section of The Plant, and found it so poor that I didn't even want to download the rest for free! I'd also second the whole time delay thing.. who wants to read a book over so many months!?

        To be honest, even if the book were good, his attitude would have turned me off. He made it sound like it was some major act of philanthropy and personal hardship to release the book in the way he did. Come on.. the guy is a multi-multi-millionaire!
    • by MaineCoon ( 12585 ) on Friday August 13, 2004 @10:57PM (#9965233) Homepage
      Sales were so abysmal

      So was the book. Kind of explains the sales, eh?
    • Bah. If you look at the numbers, King's sales were actually pretty good (in terms of total actual dollars), but he didn't like the downloads-to-sales ratio (in terms of numbers of copies), so he pulled the plug.

      Pretty stupid, actually.

      Some users were buying extra paid copies to help ensure the success of the experiment, too.

      The lesson that should have been learned is that this kind of business model encourages readers to self-select for discriminatory pricing (ie, uber-fans will pay more 'just because'),
  • What??? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    You mean all this time I've been doing it wrong by placing tiny classified ads?
  • I must say, this seems like a bad example. First of all, the books are all about Mac software. Why would I want to read that on a PDA? If we're talking about downloading to a computer, why would I want to pay money when a few minutes of Google will help me out? Sure, it's convenient. But it's not even guaranteed. And $10 seems like a high price for an electronic document covering basic material. I suppose neophyte Macaddicts may spring for it but there are plenty of free resources []. All in all, I think Baen []
    • Re:ill choice (Score:5, Informative)

      by eggboard ( 315140 ) * on Friday August 13, 2004 @11:06PM (#9965270) Homepage
      I'm the author of two of these books and have been using a Mac since 1985. I'm not going to pump up my own effort, but I can tell you how much of these books arise specifically from the fact that we, as authors and experienced Mac users, couldn't find complete and/or accurate answers to the questions that the books address, nor could we find the comprehensive start to finish advice that we needed.

      Our books aren't "here's menu A, here's menu B." The whole point is that they're not exhaustive, but they focus in on specific details. The books try to solve problems and to do it in finite space.

      It would also be another thing if you could spend a few minutes and find the answer on Google for everything in the 50 to 100 pages in the books. But you can't. It might take you a few minutes per page to find what's in the book. So if you spent, say, 2 to 4 hours, you might save $5 to $10 -- if you could find the information.

      My first book on file sharing took me about 60 hours to write on top of my experience with Unix (1994 to present), Linux (1997 to present), and Mac OS X (10.0.0 to present). The AirPort book that I just released a few weeks ago took less time in the first edition, but we commit to releasing updates with new and updated material--version 1.0 was about 90 pages; 1.1 (a free update for 1.0 book buyers) will be about 160.

      Another interesting interaction with the ebooks is that we hear from readers and can practically immediately make changes. People who bought my AirPort books first version gave me great feedback. I incorporated almost all of it into new information for the 1.1 release, which all of these readers will get for free. I love that.

      I hope this clears up a few of the issues. Almost all of the writers involved to date are freelancers, and it's really quite difficult to make a good living writing about using technology, which, I hope, helps other people. These ebooks make it financially possible for me to write books on topics that people are asking us for but that aren't available in a few minutes of Google searching, and that aren't cost effective for a print book, which has to sell 5,000 to 10,000 copies (depending on size) to be even a reasonable success.

      Imagine, for instance, a 50-page book on regular expression pattern matching for Mac OS X users. It's a possibility, and would be highly useful. But you can't write a print book like that. (Although O'Reilly has a more generalized book on the topic in print!)
      • Imagine, for instance, a 50-page book on regular expression pattern matching for Mac OS X users.

        Oh be still my beating heart.
    • Well, don't read the Take Control books on your PDA if you don't want to. They're in PDF format so you can read them on your desktop or print them out. A key advantage to them is their short publishing cycle- they're often updated and relevant. And buddy, these books may only be 50-150pgs but aren't not skimpy on the info. Finding the same info on Google will take your quite a few hours, I guarantee it. I guess if a half-dozen hours is not worth $5-10 to ya, knock yourself out.

      Before you dump on them
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I recently purchased several hiking trail guides in PDF version from a website. It was extremely convienent having the information readily accessible via my iPaq while hiking.

    Great idea :)
  • I'm sorry, have you not all been reading the on-line mags and such? Your local newspaper? There is no way to make money on the internet giving away things for free. Rob Enderle of SCO has something to say about this (Free Software and the Fools That Use it) []. Thank you very much.
    • I'm sorry, have you not all been reading the on-line mags and such? Your local newspaper? There is no way to make money on the internet giving away things for free

      That's funny, just a few days ago, our local newspaper (the Oregonian) called up and offered a free two week trial, and it was easier to say "uh, sure, why not" than politely end the conversation. And no, I don't intend to read it, except for the fry's ad and the funnies. I guess they believe information wants to be free, too.

      PS I'm proud to

    • I'm sorry, have you not all been reading the on-line mags and such? Your local newspaper? There is no way to make money on the internet giving away things for free.

      hmmm.... how much are you paying to read "on-line mags and such?" Are you paying to read Slashdot? Last I heard Roblimo and Taco were getting by giving this "stuff" away...

      • hmmm.... how much are you paying to read "on-line mags and such?" Are you paying to read Slashdot? Last I heard Roblimo and Taco were getting by giving this "stuff" away..."RobLimo" and "Taco" made a shitload of money selling Slashdot to OSDN nee OSTG several years ago, they no longer need to work. Check your facts dude.
  • Caveat Emptor (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PingPongBoy ( 303994 )
    These Take Control books are really short (less than 70 pages). I've bought a lot of professional books. Most of them approach 1000 pages. Even the index is over 40 pages.
  • One great thing that Engst mentioned (but it was sort of glossed over by the writer) was this: these e-things are promoted in Tidbits.

    This gives them -the- major advantage over most eBooks: PR.

    What people seem to have forgotten (though it was talked about a lot) is what publishing houses and music companies have: marketing channels. Marketing channels are huge, expensive to build, and expensive to maintain. But they're really the only barrier to entry in a lot of markets...but that's a big barrier.

    How do
  • by Anonymous Coward
  • by mrmeval ( 662166 ) <<mrmeval> <at> <>> on Saturday August 14, 2004 @12:10AM (#9965493) Journal
    As mentioned [] in slashdot [] before, Baen publishing [] puts out Webscriptions [] and also gives away ebooks for free [] on the net and they also provide a CD in several of their books with a large number of novels included. All of the free ebooks in the free library and on CD can be shared but not sold.

    Here are several ISO images of Baen's free science fictional goodness [], please leave up your bittorrent client for others to share.
    • I have to say, Webscriptions [] is a really good deal. You get a month's worth of releases for $15, and you can get most of the books months before that particular set of books is released. So, for example, if you were dying to get your Rats, Vats, and the Ugly fix [], after getting hooked by reading the sample chapters that they have online, you could read the rest of the book, RIGHT NOW [].

      Baen operates on the "rats pushing levers to get crack" model of publishing - they give away free product because once y
  • by migstradamus ( 472166 ) * on Saturday August 14, 2004 @12:45AM (#9965598) Homepage
    I've been running my own online publishing service since December 2002. Weekly e-mail chess training newsletters in html/pdf. It's been quite successful as a one-man show. I don't use any DRM and encourage subscribers to share with friends. Going on the "pixels are cheap" formula I priced things very low. Apart from the "lemonade game" aspect of having more subscribers with a lower price vs fewer paying more, having more happy subscribers works on word of mouth.

    I could put bugs in the html and DRM into the PDF to see who is forwarding the newsletters to a dozen friends, but all you do is force people to take more care with their piracy. Since you'll never stop a determined pirate, why hassle everyone else? I'm sure this is "Doh!" material for the /. crowd.
  • by msclark ( 413170 ) <> on Saturday August 14, 2004 @12:47AM (#9965603) Homepage
    One way to fight e-book piracy is to customize the books for the customer. This makes the books less attractive to pass on.

    My company ImageJester [] personalizes its e-books with the names and faces of people. Folks can even read the customized e-books online for free, and high-quality PDF files can be purchased and printed on home color printers.

    This busines model works for picture books for children, but perhaps a customized technical manual for an operating system doesn't have quite the same appeal. :^)

    Matthew Clark
  • Cost Estimate (Score:2, Informative)

    Just a note for those not inclined to do the math. There are 2 $10 books and 7 $5 books for an average of $6.111 per book. The Wired article states that roughly 20,000 have been sold. If we assume that every book sold equally, which we know to be false but will accept for the purposes of this estimate, that's $122,222.22 in revenue. 50%, or $61,111.11, of which goes to the authors. There are 9 books. If we stick by our earlier assumption that's $6,790.12 for the author per book. Now we could add in what we
    • I can't confirm your numbers (that would be telling), but there are two great factors that accompany your analysis: no marketing budget -- all work of mouth or existing content channels -- and only a few months' sales history on most books!
  • Another interesting publishing model is Sourcebeat []. Not self-publishing, but a publisher where new online editions are released each month, to keep up with open source projects as they develop.

    Nice to see these new models by people who "get it".
  • These are user manuals. Books in digital formats will not succeed until they begin to use available enhancements.

    i.e. "He heard an eerie sound." {cue(eeriesound.midi)}

    I suspect that eventually digital books will become something half way between print and movies, rather like the radio dramas of old.
  • RPG publishers are doing this at an alarming rate.

    PDF publishing is popular not only with small houses, but with a couple established industry leaders (Monte Cook dual publishes his supplements for D&D).

    There are several sites dedicated to selling these (I'm not going to pimp one here). But there is a battle between DRM and non-DRM now as a new site opened up recently with DRM.

    There is some argument in the community about p2p distribution of these pdfs, because it is not legal. But people are not s

The rich get rich, and the poor get poorer. The haves get more, the have-nots die.