The Technium

Innovative Publishing Model


I like this experimental book publishing model. Print 200 copies of a book in hard cover. Sell with “free” shipping. Then make the rest of the copies free as a downloadable PDF.  I missed getting one of the limited edition 200 ($9, postage paid), since they sold out in 8 hours. It really doesn’t matter what’s in the book. The model is brilliant, if you have an audience. The scarce limited edition of the physical subsidizes the distribution of the unlimited free intangible.

Here is what their website says:

We’ll post a PDF online, free for everyone—but only after we sell this run of 200 real, physical objects. So think of it this way: You’re not just buying a thought-provoking, take-it-to-the-coffee-shop book for yourself. You’re buying access for everybody. You’re a patron of the new liberal arts!

As it happens, the PDF reveals that the content is pretty thin. But it did not have to be. Their premise is great (the new literacies), and their biz model innovative. We can hope they try again.  I am impressed enough with the experiment to use this model on my next self-published book.

  • Mitchell Fox

    The “allowance” scenario is great and economically viable. I buy and, thus, allow others to benefit. It feels good and makes money. Sounds like a winner to me.

  • StanR

    Great example of the ransom model in action. I think we’ll see more mix-and-match models in the future that build on this. For example, an email address form field for those interested in a print run might tally up to 200, showing enough audience for a merchandise (versus ransom) run. If it didn’t, no loss.

    As content creation is seen a service at the core of multiple methods of production, thinking will change. At some point an infrastructure will develop to facilitate donations, ransoms, fan clubs, performances venues, and merchandise production of all kinds between “prosumers.” All while allowing the groups to maintain a unique “brand” look and feel for their project and themselves. The groundwork is there, we just need a little more seamlessness. Here’s hoping it’s a transparent social enterprise.

    Alternatively, I think it’s interesting to consider: how could we change the parameters of this offering to make the attempt fail?
    – Not involving the audience in defining the scope/type of content wanted.
    – Not offering a book.
    – Too high a price for the book.
    – Too big a run of the book.