Random House has decided to take a bold move this week, making one of its hottest titles available for free download for a limited time. Charles Bock’s debut effort Beautiful Children has set the literary world aflame, attracting glowing notices from the New York Times, Washington Post, and elsewhere, and nosing onto the NYT Bestseller List.
The download went live last night at midnight and is up until Friday night at midnight. The pdf of the book is also being hosted at Amazon for a limited time.
We got in touch with Jynne Martin, the book’s publicist, to find out more about Random House’s move to offer the book for free.
The Millions: Though big publishers are embracing technology in many ways, for Random House, releasing a new and popular book for free download seems like quite a leap. Why now and why Beautiful Children?
Jynne Martin: If it’s good enough for Radiohead it’s good enough for us! The online landscape is changing quickly, and we must take risks to find new ways to bring people to books. In this case we have a book we think is unique, fearless, and brilliant. Giving this book away for free online is a way to offer everyone a chance to read as much of the book as they want, and if readers love Beautiful Children as much as we do (and as many critics and early readers do), this will spread the word as widely as possible.
The Millions: Do you expect this to boost sales of Beautiful Children? Or is it simply an experiment to see what happens?
JM: We see this as win-win-win for everyone involved – readers, the publisher, and Charles. Of course we hope readers will love what they read, and want to own an old-world copy of the book for their shelf. But if they read it for free and don’t like it and don’t buy a copy, that’s fine; it’s no different than if they’d gone into Barnes & Noble and read the book in the cafe section and decided they didn’t want to get it.
The Millions: What was Charles Bock’s role in making this happen? Was it his idea?
JM: It was Random House’s idea but Charles embraced it right away. After ten years typing in his basement with just his computer, coffee maker, and Axl Rose albums, wondering if any other human would ever read his book at all, he’s more than thrilled to get his book out to the widest possible readership.
The Millions: Can we expect Random House to do this again in the future?
JM: It’s certainly possible. We’ll have to see how this one goes.