Wednesday, April 01, 2009

HowTo offers books online for free
31.03.09 Catherine Neilan reporting in The Bookseller

HowTo Books has launched a website allowing visitors to access "the entire text of almost 200" guides completely free. Giles Lewis, managing director of the company, made the announcement at an IPG-organised seminar for publishing MA students on how to ride out the recession.

He said: "The high street book shop or the local library used to be the first port of call but technology has changed that forever. Now the first thing most people do when they need information is to sit down in front of their computer and fire up a search engine. Our choice seemed clear.Either we were swept away by this wave of change or we adapted our business model to ride it."
A test site was launched "some time ago", with a small amount of free content. Lewis said the success of the trial – which saw visitor numbers rise from 6,000 a month to more than 250,000 – had been "overwhelming".
He added: "During that time, traditional sales through the book trade of the featured titles were not adversely affected. In fact the opposite was the case - and book sales through the website also increased. Furthermore, due to the high level of visitors to the site, we have been able to access a completely new, significant, advertising-based revenue stream that has delivered exceptional returns."

In particular, How To Feed Your Whole Family, which was published with "modest success" in October 2007, saw "significant sales" after being made available for free online.
Nikki Read, editorial director of the How To books, said: "The book increasingly became one that people were recommending mouth to mouth, blog to blog – all the time referring back to the free-to-view website where they could read the recipes for themselves. People were literally trying before buying."

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