David Barnett at The Guardian books section has posted his thoughts on the proliferation of the ebook as a promotional tool to sell more traditional, print books. It’s an interesting idea, that allowing the more technologically inclined get their hands on a book before everyone else will spread the word about the book’s merit before it ever hits the shelf. What’s the chances of a new ebook going viral? Not likely, but among a certain select group (here I think of the many bookish types who frequent Twitter and other social networking sites) there is potential for promotion. There’s no doubt a limit on the buzz for a book of poetry due to readership levels, but for other more popular fiction genres it means publishers may be keeping their options open.
This cultural shift happened almost overnight. One day we kept our content closely guarded for fear our rivals would snap it up; the next we were banging stories on to the web as fast as we could. Readers were deserting newspapers so fast that we all decided there would be nothing to lose in playing the internet at its own game. And now publishers seem to be following the same logic.
Throughout November, The Friday Project is giving away a free ebook version of In Praise of Savagery by Warwick Cairns – a full six months before the book hits the shops in a more traditional format. Why? It’s all a question of buzz.