05 July 2006

An interesting business model for book publishing

I was listening this morning in my car to the French state-owned radio France-Inter, which had a good programme on La Révolution internet, de l'e-commerce à l'e-citoyenneté (The Internet Revolution, from e-commerce to e-citizenship). One of the guests was Joel de Rosnay who has published earlier this year a book entitled, La révolte du pronétariat (The Revolt of Pronetariat). I did find the pun on proletariat/pronetariat rather amusing. The new concepts created by Rosnay are those of "pronétaires" (English "Pronetarians") and pronétarians (Eng. "Pronetariat"), which he defines in the following way in the introduction of the book (my translation): "I call "pronetarians" (from the grec pro, ahead, before, but also favorable to something, and the English net [...] a new class of digital networks users capable of producing, diffusing, selling non-proprietary digital content, by implementing the principles of the "new New Economy".

What did really get my attention is the business-model the author described for the marketing of the book which really did got my attention. He explained how the book published by one of Paris' leading publishing house, Fayard, was initially released in a traditional way through bookshops in February 2006. About six months later, it was then made available online for free download, under a Creative Commons licence. The book sold very well the first time round, but the release of the free online version resulted in a second wave of purchase of the print version of the book, as people like to own their own copy. It seems to be a good win-win strategy which allow to combine making knowledge freely available online (a principle Rosnay advocates in the book) and profitability for the printed book.

Also of interest is the fact that the book is available online in three different versions. The originality here is that it is not only available as as html and as pdf, but also as a podcast. The technology used for creating this audio version is the ReadSpeaker.

I really much like the idea. So much so that I intend not only to have a good look at the ReadSpeaker technology, but to contact the publishing house which published my first book, back in 1997, with a view to emulating Joel de Rosnay's idea.

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