With the O’Reilly Tools of Change technology conference beginning a three-day run in New York today, Random House and HarperCollins both announced new e-initiatives aimed at using technology to sell more print and digital titles. The Random House Publishing Group is testing sales of a book by chapters, while HC has started a variety of online projects to let consumers sample titles on its site, and, in some cases, get an e-book for free.
In the Random test, Chip Heath and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, published in hardcover in January 2007, is being made available in six chapters and an epilogue—the content bunches are priced individually at $2.99 each—at www.randomhouse.com/madetostick. Consumers who buy a chapter will receive an e-mail with a link for downloading the purchased file, which cannot be shared electronically. Avideh Bashirrad, deputy director of marketing for RHPG, said the company chose Stick because each chapter contains standalone lessons. Matt Shatz, Random’s v-p, digital, said the experiment is intended “to gauge the demand for short form electronic content.” Several publishers, mostly in the travel and computer fields, have offered chapters for sale, with mixed results.
HarperCollins’ test-run with online sampling, at www.HarperCollins.com, launches today with both a “Full Access” option and a “Sneak Peek” one. The former will give consumers the ability to read select titles in their entirety for a limited time while the latter (underway for two weeks now) will allow readers to peruse 20% of certain titles pre-pub. The pilot program is intended to test whether online freebies can spark book sales. Additionally, for titles in the house’s digital warehouse that have already published, HC is giving consumers the ability to view 20% of the book’s content through its “browse inside” option.
Select authors, such as Paulo Coelho and Roger Director are working with HC in testing the full access model. In each scenario readers can follow a link from the work to buy the book online from a number of retailers. Neil Gaiman, who’s also trying the model, is allowing his readers to choose which book will be accessible online; the author is blogging about the promotion on www.neilgaiman.com and telling his fans to vote for the title they want full access to.
Speaking to the promotion, Jane Friedman, CEO and president of HC, said: “This is analogous to removing the shrink wrap from a book. The advantage of our digital warehouse is that we can securely, quickly and easily change what content is available, whether it is to meet an author’s request, to preview a title before it is on sale, or to promote backlist books.”
The publisher also reports that its “sneak peek” option already shows positive results. After a volume from Erin Hunter’s children’s series,Warriors: Power of Three #2, Dark River, was made available for preview last month, the house said “pre-orders doubled over the previous book in the series.” This month Victoria Alexander’s The Perfect Wife, Mary Kay Andrews’ Deep Dish and Peter Robinson’s Friend of the Devil have been added to the sneak peek program.