Publisher Will Post Free Books Online

HarperCollins execs want readers to browse before they buy
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2008 3:00 PM CST
Brazilian author Paulo Coelho speaks in this file photo. Coelho is one of the authors headlining HarperCollins' new plan to post whole books for free online. (AP Photo/Keystone, Alessandro Della Bella)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – In a counterintuitive move, HarperCollins will attempt to sell more books by giving books away. Starting today, a handful of complete books will be available free on the publisher's website. The company compares the new policy to allowing prospective readers to flip through as they might in a store. “It’s like taking the shrink wrap off,” said CEO Jan Friedman.

The free texts aren’t printable and can’t be downloaded to laptops or Kindles. But even with those precautions, the program is under close scrutiny. “We will know very soon if we sense any kind of cannibalization,” said Friedman. So far, only a handful of books are up, including a novel by Paulo Coehlo, who’s often pointed readers to pirated copies of his work.