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Saturday, July 24, 2004

Buying vs. Downloading

Glenn Reynolds, minutes after appearing on CNN, is back blogging and writes:

DO FREE DOWNLOADS HURT SALES? Well, the 9/11 Commission Report is number one on Amazon even though it's available for free online.

Not dispositive, I suppose, but interesting.

I think the important consideration here is the length of the written document being downloaded. Clearly, people will read newspaper and magazine articles online rather than buying a paper copy. But when you get into longer materials, like journal articles or court cases, it becomes more difficult to sit at the computer screen reading something for an hour or more. That's when it becomes desirable to print a copy and read from paper while seated in a comfortable chair. When you get to something that is book-length, hundreds of pages, there's no way someone is going to read from the computer screen (improving technology may change this in coming years I guess). And printing something that length is a pain too, lest you run out of ink/toner or paper (you could do this clandestinely from your workplace, not that I've ever done such a thing...). If you're going to invest the time to read that much, you may as well drop a few bucks for a nice bound copy.