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Impact of P2P and Free Distribution on Book Sales

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Book publishers have long used free content as part of their marketing and selling efforts, with the vast majority of free content distributed in printed form. Digital distribution of free material, either intentional or via unauthorized availability through peer-to-peer sites and other Web outlets, offers a fast and expansive connection to consumers, but content can also be copied and disseminated without publishers' control. Some publishers are torn between the efficiencies digital distribution provides and concerns over piracy and print-sale cannibalization. This research report is part of an ongoing effort by O'Reilly Media Inc. and Random House to test assumptions about free distribution, P2P availability and their potential impact on book sales.

Designing credible experiments whose results can be analyzed and compared depends on the ability to test enough titles to control for a range of variables. This project began with an assessment of work already done, most notably by O’Reilly Media and Random House. That assessment led to an analysis of the attributes that might be captured and compared when planning and conducting experiments with the distribution of free content.

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