True Films eBook

The 200 best documentaries

This is the third version of a guide I have been developing for the past 5 years. It takes the 200 best documentaries I have reviewed on my website True Films and puts them into one handy book. For an explanation of why I bother to order the content of a website into a book see the previous entry.

In True Films, I cover only true films: documentaries, factuals, non-fiction, reality-based series, and some instructional how-to. You can get a sense of what I like from the site. I love documentaries that 1) surprise me, and 2) inform me.

Each review is a rave review; that is, I only review films I love and believe others will enjoy. Merely good films are left unmentioned. I also include what no other film review source does: I provide 4 to 5 screen shots from each documentary to give you an idea of what the texture of the film is. And I only review documentaries that can be seen easily on DVD or tape at consumer prices (either as Netflix rentals, legal downloads, or online purchase). Documentaries available only in theaters, or as high-priced “educational films” are regrettably ignored.

Earlier editions of this book have been available on Amazon, Lulu, and as a cheap download from my site. But with this new version 3.0 I am trying something new. I am offering this 200-page full-color guide (perfect as a companion if you have Netflix) as a FREE download. It’s in PDF format, but with a twist. To help offset the significant bandwidth costs of these downloads (I hope my server can take the wave), I have appended advertisements to the PDF book. Here is how the ads work:

If you choose to see the ads, they will appear in a gray sidebar on the right, adjacent to the pages of the book, just outside the frame of the page, as shown below:

These ads are inserted into the PDF by Adobe (using the Yahoo ad network) when you open the file. Like Google Adsense ads, they are contextual. That is, Adobe/Yahoo tries to match the content of the ads with the content of text on the the pages, in my case, text about documentaries. The ads I see at this moment of writing are mostly about apartment rentals, but they change each time one opens the book. The way Adobe/Yahoo “knows” about the content of the PDF is not by crawling the web, but by the author (me in this case) submitting the PDF to their machine the first time, which then stamps it with a registration code, so it can remember what’s in it when someone far away opens it on their machine.

Like Google, no money flows unless someone clicks on them. If a reader of the True Films PDF books clicks on an ad, the advertiser pays Yahoo, who in turns gives me some small percent, around 5 cents (I think).

But because the PDF file must reach out from your computer to the Adobe server to get the ads, an action that some readers may not approve, seeing the ads is an opt-in default. You have to agree to see the ads before any will show up. You will also need the latest version of Acrobat Reader (8) to see them. If you use an older version no ads will show up, and you’ll see only the free book. Since the ads are adjacent to the book, whether you see ads or not will not affect the design of the book itself.

I hope you get the updated version of the Reader and click to see the ads. (A little box pops up and says “the author has added sponsored content which requires connecting to adobe server. OK?” Say yes.) Why? Because my hunch is that books-supported-by-ads is one way to extend the FREE. I would love to produce books for free, outside of big publishing, just as this recommendation site is given away for free. Cool Tools has continued for free for five years because it is funded by the ads on this site. There is a chance we can develop a similar culture and business model around FREE books. The engine would again be ads.

The Ads for Adobe PDF program is an experiment. It takes all of 10 minutes to sign up and send your PDF through. If it works with you readers to the same degree that ad-supported blogs have, it is not hard to imagine thousands of books being released for free with ads on the side. To some in publishing this prospect is the end of the world. The final stake in the heart of good old books. Ads-in-books specifically have been a bogeyman too horrible for them to even think about.

I am more pragmatic. I actually like the Google contextual ads on Cool Tools. They bring up choices I would have never encountered, yet they are fairly unobtrusive until you are looking. Why not do the same for books?

Well, I have. Several years ago I added Google contextual ads to the digital versions of my books, Out of Control and New Rules for the New Economy. If you look at the books’ website the books do the same cool magic as Cool Tools. At the bottom of each page of text in the book, there are somewhat relevant ads (their relevancy wavers depending on the stars).

It seems a logical next step to try ads in free downloadable books. This is an experiment. Opt-in for the ads and let me know if they work for you. Or if you have trouble with the PDF scheme itself.

If all else fails, think of it as a Christmas present. Spread the word that your friends can download a free 200-page guide to the world’s best documentaries. In fact, I have a better offer. You are welcomed to host and serve up the file yourself. Indeed, I hope that others will, viral-like, post the PDF elsewhere, wherever they want to. Put it on YouTube, iTunes, etc. You have my permission, as long as the content remains intact. If you do forward and share this PDF — and you are welcomed to — please explain to the giftee the opt-in ad function.

In the meantime I’ll serve as many of these as I can while my bandwidth lasts. I’ll also post the results once the traffic plateaus.

If I have missed any great documentaries, let me know.

-- KK 12/29/07

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