June 20, 2008

An Experiment [9:01 am]

The e-Book Test: Do Electronic Versions Deter Piracy

[M]my own publisher, O’Reilly, is about to offer a bunch of its bestsellers for sale on the Amazon Kindle.

Early next month, the company will also start selling electronic versions of certain books with no copy protection. For a single price (cheaper than the printed-book price), the package will include the book in three formats: PDF, Mobipub (compatible with the Amazon Kindle), and Epub (soon to be compatible with the Sony Reader).

Anyway, I’ve agreed to try an experiment involving one of my books (”Windows Vista: The Missing Manual”): to offer it as part of that buy-the-electronic-versions program.

[...] I’m encouraging O’Reilly to adopt some antipiracy steps [...] [t]hat might deter people from posting their copies online for all to download.

This is not, of course, quite what Kevin Kelly is proposing; I’m not offering the book for free. But at least I’m defusing the argument that says, “The only reason people are pirating your books is that you’re not offering e-versions for legitimate sale.”

Now, all kinds of factors affect a book’s sales over time: the seasons, the economy, the popularity of the topic, the age of the book and so on. Even my mentioning this experiment here may skew the results. As I wrote originally, there’s no way to conduct a perfect sales-comparison without creating a parallel universe. So I’m not sure how conclusive the results will be.

Even so, I’ll report back to you in a few months. [...]

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