O’Reilly seems to take the same standpoint as Craig Mod. And like Mod, I think that O’Reilly will benefit from this. People like free things. Why else are we constantly bombarded with “buy one, get one free?” (especially as holiday season intrudes upon us) By giving this book to readers for free, O’Reilly is possibly placing their name in people’s heads. When you want to buy a book, instructive or otherwise, why not check O’Reilly first? It might be free and if not, well, still buy it from them because you like that the company is willing to give things to their readers.
Readers will also thoroughly enjoy this idea, especially when it comes to software help books. iBooks Author has already upgraded from the first version. It’s frustrating to consumers when new upgrades mean that you have to basically buy another book. Having a free book gives the reader less stress when it comes to learning because the stress of spending x-amount of dollars for something that will change in a year is gone.
Free books may also help authors. More people will be willing to read and download a book if it is free. This will allow consumers to interact with an author’s work more freely and more often. If the reader then enjoys the book, they may be more willing to buy books from that author. Free books may create more of a “fan” base.
Overall, I think that a gift economy is sustainable. But I also think that everything can’t be free. Craig Mod did it in a great way. The book is available free online or for a price on an e-reader. This allowed people to check out the book first but if they wanted to dial into all of the benefits of a platform and easy reading on an e-reader, then they would need to purchase the book. O’Reilly offers some books for free and others for a price (ebook and printed). Both of these choices show readers that these companies and people are making an effort to open up knowledge. Readers (hopefully) will either want to purchase an ebook to access the platform benefits or they will come to O’Reilly for their book needs (whether or not they offer it for free).
People like gifts and free things and I think they will remember who gave it to them.