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Long Tail’s Chris Anderson on “Free” at O’Reilly TOC

Submitted by Chris on Tuesday, 06/19/072 Comments

Jeff Gomez, writing at one of my favorite and thought-provoking e-content blogs Print Is Dead, has a great article covering Chris Anderson’s speech at the O’Reilly TOC conference entitled “FREE: The Economics of Abundance and the Price of Zero.”

Anderson discusses several ways he and his publisher are considering making aspects of his upcoming book free, but stops short of simply releasing a free e-book:

“free book is the marketing for the non-book thing.” In his case, what he’s really selling is himself. He also acknowledged that, for his publisher, this is a difficult and different proposition. But Anderson believes that “you give away what you can give away, and you charge what you can charge for,” and that all of the iterations of the eBook or the printed book with ads — that any way you offer the “free” version — will be inferior to the real book.

Many of the “free things” Chris discusses as part of his book project are things we have discussed at my company such as advertising in books, and free sample chapters online - so there’s nothing really revolutionary about what they are considering. However if they execute on ideas like in-book advertising, they would be the first to actually do so to my knowledge.

You should head over to Jeff’s blog to read his coverage, but one item that was especially interesting was their social media focused approach to marketing his first book, The Long Tail:

Give away books to “influentials.” (This worked incredibly well for The Long Tail, where Anderson convinced his publisher to print 1,000 ARCs — many more than publishers usually print — and they ended up getting about 800 copies into the hands of interested bloggers. From this, more than 600 online reviews appeared, which then linked to Amazon. Anderson said that his Amazon sales outweighed his bookstore sales, leading him and his publishes to believe that all of that online-linking led to more Internet/Amazon sales.)

1000 review copies is generally unheard of, but look at the return on their investment - 600 highly influential reviews driving sales to where the book has had a permanent home on their Computers and Internet Best Seller List since its release.

Chris Anderson is also blogging about “Free” at his Long Tail blog.

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  • Jim Minatel said:

    I think what’s more unique than the large size of the advanced review copy list at 1000 (that’s more in the common ballpark than the quote would lead to believe) is the fact that 800 of those went to bloggers. It’s hard to imagine that we could have got more pervasive blog coverage of “Naked Conversations” than we did but would 600 blog reviews pointing to Amazon have helped that book sell even better? Hmm. Oh to have had 800 interested bloggers!

    FWIW, college textbook publishers used to send out 2000-3000 instructor review copies of a mainstream intro text for a course like calculus, accounting, or marketing. I don’t know if they’ve found a way to reduce the number of copies to more targeted subsets. Obviously the point of those review copies is much different than in the trade & professional publishing world but the expense involved there dwarfs 1000 review copies to bloggers.

  • Chris (author) said:

    You are right Jim, and that was actually my point (which apparently I didn’t make well.) As you point out, they didn’t send out 1000 review copies to journalists, they sent them to bloggers and that shows his publisher understands the shift of influence that social media is driving.

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