These were two central themes at yesterday's Un-Bound, Google's conference in NYC.
On giving it away: Chris Anderson, Wired magazine's editor-in-chief and author of The Long Tail (we take a liking to that title), informed us that the average book sells 500 copies a year, and just two (one, two) sold one million copies or more last year. He also said that “giving away free electronic versions of a book is the smart way to distribute content.” Stellar fellow speakers that day, Seth Godin, Cory Doctorow and Tim O'Reilly concurred.
Cory Doctorow might just be the poster child for this strategy (with Seth at a close second). Mind you, most of the free books are indeed e-books, but that is the entire point. Said Cory, "Electronic books are social, and social activity around a book is a key way to selling books."
The time for (big) change is now. For an incredibly conservative, slow-to-adapt, traditional industry, this is no small feat. Tim O'Reilly advised publishers: "We're in an era of tremendous change, and you need to embrace this change." It sounds simplistic, but it is certainly not simple. The (traditional) publishing industry is kicking and screaming while fighting this change. We think they should take a look at media companies who are not only getting it, but doing something about it.
The prize for best closer yesterday goes to Seth. To a backdrop of an image of the galaxy, he said, (with great enthusiasm, and sense of urgency) "In five years you're either going to be the center of the universe, or you're going to be ... Pluto."