Free Books Like Free Speech Not Free Boor

This essay by Tim O'Reilly got me thinking about a book I've co-written across three editions, Real World Adobe GoLive. The book has had a relatively short shelf life because of Adobe's rapid revision schedule in the first releases after it acquired the product, formerly called CyberStudio.The latest edition of the book has sold extremely poorly. I'm sure I'm revealing enormously damaging sales information for a tiny niche product, right? But my co-author Jeff Carlson and I put enormous effort into the book. There are certainly hundreds of thousands of GoLive 6 users based on all the numbers we know about, and only a tiny fraction have purchased our book. (Because of returns on previous editions, we're in the hole for the book across editions, making it difficult to earn out the advance.) So what's the solution? Revel in obscurity and restrict the information, hard-won and documented that we put together? No. Taking a page from O'Reilly's essay and some other ideas we've experimented with, we've released the entire book as a free, but copyrighted, PDF today at the book's Web site. We figure that it's worth sharing the book with the rest of the world because the sales are so low we're not sabotaging any channels. If anything, we hope that people will read the electronic version, and decide that instead of printing a 922-page book out, they'll buy the print edition. Maybe it'll improve sales. But if nothing else, we've thrown the book into light instead of letting it slip into the void, obscure and unavailable. In the next few days, Adam Engst and I, co-authors on The Wireless Networking Starter Kit, will release an electronic edition of that book that will be sold. We won't copy protect it, but will rely on the nature of the Internet to spread ideas and hopefully result in some income. Ebooks are still in their infancy because people don't interact with them the way they do print editions. That's partly because ebooks need to take more advantage of the medium in which they operate, and that's tough. Developing interactive resources requires lots of creativity and effort. Writing books is hard and involved in an entirely different fashion.