…writes Joanna Glasner in Wired.
Nonetheless, rather than turn solely to the [9/11] commission’s website to download the [9/11] report, more than 600,000 people have instead paid $10 or so for a printed copy. For the report’s official publisher, W.W. Norton & Co., it’s been an unexpected windfall.
“Nobody anticipated it would sell at this level,” said Louise Brockett, director of publicity at Norton, which was the authorized publisher of the commission report on July 22, the day of its release. Last week, the publishing house also began selling a hardcover version of the report containing a detailed index.
While the 9/11 Commission Report — a surprisingly readable work addressing an issue of supreme national importance — is in a category of its own in the annals of government-funded literature, it’s also serving as a high-profile case study of the effects of free online distribution on sales of printed works. One lesson: Just because someone can read something for free online doesn’t mean they will want to.
“The thought of even reading it online makes my head spin…. And no one’s going to print it out and read it,” said Barrie Rappaport, chief analyst at Ipsos BookTrends, a publishing market research service. “It’s cheaper to buy the book at the end of the day.”