Can Giving Books Away Pay Off? No Starch Press Publisher Bill Pollock on his decision to offer two of his key titles as free downloads.
Extra: How does the traditional book-selling model eventually come into play in this equation?
Pollock: Offering books through file-sharing is a way to take back what I’ve fought [against] personally. I fought book pirates. It’s like playing Whac-A-Mole. You hit one, and another pops up. … But just because we’re releasing [these titles] for free doesn’t mean that I’m giving up all copyright. It’s not giving everything away for free. This is a way that we can control an outlet that we haven’t been able to control. Instead of people saying, “I’ve cracked this book,” we’re saying, “Here it is. Enjoy. This is an official pirate version.” … I’m going to use this as a way to let people know that these books are out. Ultimately, I want people to buy the book.
We’ve been selling PDFs of our books from the beginning. There’s no [digital rights management (DRM) on the files]. They’re completely unlocked. I have a note on the [No Starch Press] site that says, “Treat them like a book.” … I can tell every publisher out there that any lock that they put on [a file] is going to be broken. I know that 100 percent. … All you need is one copy to be unlocked. Once it’s out there, it’s gone. … Instead of wasting time on this, let’s think of the fundamental problem we have as an industry—visibility.
Extra: How will providing the full versions of these two titles via P2P provide more visibility or help sales?
Pollock: If you really like “The Cult of Mac,” and you’re a Mac fan, you’re going to go out and buy it. … My argument … is it all comes back to visibility. … If I can find a way for [consumers] to know about [our books], I’m going to sell more books. People still like the printed book. …