Free: Why Authors are Giving Books Away on the Internet

John Hilton III and David Wiley published the article “Free: Why Authors are Giving Books Away on the Internet” in the March/April 2010 issue of TechTrends. The authors interviewed ten writers who had made their works freely accessible on the web. They sought the answers to five questions:

  1. What motivates authors to provide free digital versions of book?
  2. How does free digital distribution affect the distribution of a work?
  3. How does free digital distribution affect the impact of a work?
  4. Are authors glad they made their books freely available?
  5. What effect does free digital distribution have on print sales?

The article’s abstract:

With increasing frequency, authors in academic and non-academic fields are releasing their books for free digital distribution. Anecdotal evidence suggests that exposure to both authors and books increases when books are available as free downloads, and that print sales are not negatively affected. For this study we interviewed ten authors to determine their perceptions of the effect free digital distribution has on the impact and sales of their work. In addition, we examined the sales data of two books over a two year period of time, in which one book was freely available for the second year. All of the individuals we surveyed felt free digital downloads increased the distribution and impact of their book. None of the authors felt that print sales were negatively affected. Data from our book sale comparison suggest that in the case we studied, free digital distribution did not negatively affect sales.