Through links on its Facebook page (The Chicago Manual of Style) and Twitter feed (@ChicagoManual), the University of Chicago Press continues to give away a free e-book each month. According to Garrett Kiely, UCP’s director, the strategy was launched as a marketing vehicle to advertise its e-book list. The first giveaway, the English translation of Censorinus’s The Birthday Book, resulted in 800 requests last November.

February’s offer was used to create buzz on a forthcoming book--Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates by University of Chicago professor Adrian Johns--with a pre-publication, one-day-only giveaway. “We enjoyed the ‘steal this book’ irony of giving away a book about piracy,” Kiely told PW. “It wasn’t even published yet, and we gave away 2,400 copies.” A boost came when “a lot of cities’ Web sites put it on their ‘Free in This City’ pages. Of course, after the giveaway ended, we advertised it on our site for sale, and it did pretty well.”

In some cases, the giveaway promotes an author’s previous book--or a previous edition—when a new one goes on sale. As the 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style pubbed, 7,408 readers took advantage of September’s e-freebie of the first edition, published in 1906. And at the end of last month, the October publication of Roger Ebert’s Great Movies III coincided with a one-day giveaway of Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert. Ebert helped out by tweeting to his over 250,000 Twitter followers, and a total of 5,400 copies were requested.

This month’s giveaway is Thomas McMahon’s 2003 novel Loving Little Egypt. Another McMahon title, McKay’s Bees, became popular this summer after being profiled on NPR’s All Things Considered, with a chapter excerpt on the NPR Web site. “So we are giving Loving Little Egypt away,” Kiely explained, “to revive interest in McMahon’s other titles.”

Kiely admits that an initial concern was whether the giveaways would potentially eat into sales. But “because it’s very circumscribed--one day only, in most cases--it’s not injurious to sales. Everyone who requests it, we get their e-mail address. Now we have a large e-mail list. Plus, it’s good publicity. We have no plans to stop.”