Author piracy pushes ‘free book’ model

11 Feb 2008

Publishing house Harper Collins is providing free online copies of selected books on its website from today, the most notable being the books of famous author Paulo Coelho who recently began providing free copies of his own books from his personal blog.

Harper Collins said its reason for doing this is that much the same as the ability to flick through a real book in a bookstore, the consumer will likely get a taste of the book in a digital format, before going on to buy the physical copy if they like what they see.

This was the same reason given by Paulo Coelho, who said that although people will download free digital copies of books by the thousand they don’t necessarily read them in their entirety.

While one of his most famous books, The Alchemist, had not sold more than a thousand copies in Russia, Coelho found that after he made the Russian translation available to download for free online the number of physical copies sold had jumped to 10,000 one year later.

Coelho is so serious about this idea of making books freely available online that he has a blog called Pirate Coelho which provides links to free copies of all his books in several different languages.

While several publishing houses own the copyright to translations of Coelho’s works, he owns the digital rights, except for his English versions, digital or not. These are owned by Harper Collins which seemed unaware of Coelho’s online activities but is now providing one of his books for free download every month from its site.

These electronic editions are not printable and will only be viable to read for a duration of one month on a user’s laptop or eReader such as Amazon’s Kindle, after which it will expire.

Other authors whose books will feature on the Harper Collins site include Neil Gaiman and Robert Irvine.

By Marie Boran