Books Published Online by the Chapter

HarperCollins is going to post free books on the web:

Starting Monday, readers who log on to will be able to see the entire contents of “The Witch of Portobello” by Mr. Coelho; “Mission: Cook! My Life, My Recipes and Making the Impossible Easy” by Mr. Irvine; “I Dream in Blue: Life, Death and the New York Giants” by Roger Director; “The Undecided Voter’s Guide to the Next President: Who the Candidates Are, Where They Come from and How You Can Choose” by Mark Halperin; and “Warriors: Into the Wild” the first volume in a children’s series by Erin Hunter.

Random House is going to start selling books by the chapter. Leading off with Made to Stick at $2.99 a chapter.

I am a bit skeptical of the "by the chapter" business model, but books have tens or hundreds of thousands of words in them, backed by a trusted brand with editorial control, which can rank in organic search results AND be promoted through a vertical book search. Once they get a taste of the ad revenues, book publishers are going to publish most traditional nonfiction books online in their entirety, which will create a lot of competition for traditional web publishing based businesses.

Published: February 11, 2008 by Aaron Wall in publishing & media


February 11, 2008 - 9:09am

How many times have you bought a book and read the first chapter, only to decide that it's not as good as you hoped? I imagine they'll sell a lot of first chapters.

I don't think this will please a lot of readers, either. Why make multiple purchases when each chapter takes maybe only half an hour to read?

February 11, 2008 - 6:17pm

I am sorta like a machine when I start reading books. Once I start it I have to finish it. :)

There are very few books that I start and do not finish. But I am probably an anomaly.

Totally agree that few people are going to want to purchase a chapter an hour. Just giving away the first chapter free as a teaser is a better strategy, IMHO.

Plus, at $3 a chapter Made to Stick comes out to $21 for ebook by the chapter version, whereas the Kindle version is $9.99 and the hard copy version of it is $16.47 at Amazon.

February 11, 2008 - 9:19am

I've always thought that the serialization of content (like what Stephen King did with one of his stories a several years back) could work both as a revenue model (like what you are describing above) and as an ad-supported model (in certain verticals).

February 11, 2008 - 6:19pm

The problem with books is perceived value. Their current low price point and format make serialization hard to be a value add strategy, though I think they could make a killing with ads if books were designed to fit that model.

February 12, 2008 - 11:18am

It's also going to mean a lot more rubbish gets published.

February 12, 2008 - 5:24pm

Yup...just like media companies creating special sponsored editorial content for advertisers, many more books will cover high paying keywords, with titles like:

  • How to apply for a Credit Card Today
  • Curing Erectile Dysfunction With Viagra
  • Buying a New Car With No Money Down

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