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Re: In Need of New Models for Online Books

I've had good luck with a hybrid publishing model for my recent book, The
Instructional Use of Learning Objects. The full text of the book is
available online for free (http://reusability.org/read/), and the book can
also be purchased in dead tree form for around $20. The book is licensed
under the Open Publication License (http://opencontent.org/), which allows
any type of redistribution BUT for-profit print distribution.

As you might imagine the publisher required some "encouraging" before they
would accept this scheme. As it turns out, the online version of the book
has been the best advertising we could ever have. The print version of the
book has sold very well (for a graduate level instructional technology
book), pre-selling over 500 copies on the book website before print copies
were even available.

Why are people buying copies of the book? I think there are two reasons.
First, the online version lets them get a taste, and be certain that the
book is worth having. Second, very, very few people are willing to read
350 pages on their monitor, and the dead tree version doesn't cost much
more than it would for most folks to print their own copy.

Other publishers I have talked to about doing another book have all but
denied that my experience has occurred; they have remained stalwart in
their opinions regardless of the sales and other data I put in front of
them. =)