The story here obviously isn’t really about the book. You can click through if you want a description of thigns like plot and characters.
What really matters is that John at SFSignal says:
You can either buy the novel in various eBook formats at Smashwords for the more-than-reasonable price of $2…or, you can read it online for free.
This flies in the face of conventional wisdom that says people will not pay for what they can get for free. Will it work? The thinking is that people will pay for what they like, especially if it’s cheap enough. I’d be interested in hearing a few months from now how well this works…
I have to point out, though, that the “read it online for free” part means you have to read it on the author’s website on a really, really, really… really, really, really long web page. So, really, it’s not an experiment to see if people will pay for something they can get for free because what they get for free is not the equivalent of what they pay for. It’s more of a test of how much people are willing to punish themselves before they spend a small amount of money.
Of course, I did a quick test, and was able to get a high quality version of the book simply by copying the really (really, really, really) long web page into an Open Office Writer document. I’m pretty sure there’s a script the author could embed on the site that would prevent people from selecting and/or copying text – if he really wanted to see if people would pay for something they could read online for free.
Of course (number 2), it would also be interesting to have 2 versions and do split testing to see if you get better conversions to the pay version from the site that doesn’t allow copying, or if people would just give up and not even read the book. As Tim O’Reilly says, “Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.” (h/t: Cory Doctorow)