Piracy sends "Go the Fuck to Sleep" to #1 on Amazon

Mark reviewed a funny parody of a kid's picture book called Go the Fuck to Sleep late last month, and it's since gone to be the number one bestseller on Amazon.

Except, it hasn't been published yet. It's reached the number one slot on the strength of pre-orders.

How did this remarkable thing occur? Piracy.

In an age of e-books, piracy has been a rising concern amongst publishers for a few years, although none of the publishers contacted by The Bay Citizen could recall a PDF of a book going viral in the vein of "Go the Fuck to Sleep." This volume had a few key properties that enabled its electronic popularity: an undeniable title, a good-looking cover and a short length, making it easy to read, post and pass on. Also, the long lag time between the book's pre-sale (it was originally scheduled to go on sale in October) and the buzz made online sharing necessary.
'Go the F--- to Sleep': The Case of the Viral PDF


  1. I’m waiting for my four copies from Amazon, which I promptly ordered after reading the PDF. People ask me why I advocate releasing most creative content freely and totally unfettered onto the net, and I always tell them it’s because “*Obscurity* is the real enemy of new content, not ‘piracy’!” Piracy was a once a problem in the 1980’s before we figured out how to really monetize creative properties in an abundance economy. Now piracy is just a boogeyman used by an industry of parasitic middlemen who are trying to prevent their golden geese from becoming free-range through bully-threats and legislation. They were used to totally controlling IP, in much the same way dinosaurs were used to warm weather. {Asteroid == Disintermediator-of-the-Gods.}


    1. I agree with you so much!

      “Piracy was a once a problem in the 1980’s before we figured out how to really monetize creative properties in an abundance economy.”

      except there. I think it was a problem in the 1980’s before we figured out the parasitic moneymen were very interested in keeping talent down to maximize their profits off of the performer of the day.

      If the obscurity problem had been solved 30 years back by going around those parasites then, then we would already be in a different place today.

      We’ll get there. Great insights Tamooj.

  2. I saw the pirated .pdf and, indeed, it sold me the book. It can be a great business strategy, although I still don’t see why copyright holders ought to be obliged to allow this (self-defeating though it may be).

  3. “Snakes on a Plane”‘s lasting success is proof positive of the ongoing profitability of internet fad-ware. I’m certain that lovers of “Go the Fuck to Sleep” will be keen to part with cash for a five month old meme once it hits the shelves in hardcopy.

  4. Is it really the piracy or the buzz about the clever title, sans piracy, on the internet?

  5. I preordered this without breaking the author’s copyright on the basis of the title and endorsements I read. no piracy involved at all.

  6. Would you care to present any actual evidence? Because this is pretty ripe speculation that the sales numbers are the result of anything but pre-release hype and not theft.

  7. I pre-ordered several copies for family and friends, and another friend ordered a few, based on just articles mentioning the book, no piracy necessary. I’m interested if there’s any real evidence or even logic to support that piracy was the key here, not just general good publicity and word of mouth. The article doesn’t seem to have any specific facts, only second or third hand anecdotes and speculation that someone might be speculating.

    Even if these PDFs influenced purchases, it seems distinctly different from most piracy- I wouldn’t expect anyone to substitute a scan of a children’s book for a real children’s book, like I might substitute a pirated mp3 for buying a CD or pirated text of a novel for buying an actual paperback.

  8. I pre-ordered a copy for my brother (who has a 1.5 year old) based solely on the basis of the article posted here a few weeks ago. I’m certainly not going to cancel my order now that it’s available for “free” online. Whether piracy contributed to the buzz or not, this book would have sold well. Quality content will always make money, regardless of piracy.

  9. A picture book is an object.
    The digital image is not a real replacement for the object any more than seeing a picture of Mt. Rushmore is the same as seeing it in person.

    People hold up examples of things being given away and then resulting in real income. Radiohead, Monty Python, and now this. But for the most part, these are special cases, largely just the fact that such acts are at this point in time still a novelty.

    It’s a very basic economic fact that while a person may be altruistic, a market full of people will seek the lowest price for a good they want.

    People will buy this because they want the physical book, and partially because they want to support the author. This doesn’t translate very well to movies and music where the physical object isn’t as much part of the experience, and it won’t translate into the future when the novelty of free has worn off.

  10. Reminds me a bit of the way the movie “Unthinkable” got tons of rave reviews, heated discussion threads and a very high rating at imdb.org, despite the fact that it hadn’t even been released.

  11. It would seem that the “I can make/fix/understand anything” readership at Boing Boing has at last revealed its kryptonite: getting kids to sleep.

    There are many good books on the subject. Buy one of those before you buy this one.

  12. My anecdotal evidence to the contrary: I bought 3 copies for new parents I know, based only on the sample page at the publisher’s site, and the reputations of the creators. I wasn’t even aware that I could read the whole thing, already. I guess I shall assume, from the first couple of comments above, it’s as good as it promises to be, having made a woefully uninformed purchasing decision, yes? Assume, schmassume: I’m going to go see what I’ve got now!

    (@ryan873, I’ve already purchased, for other new parents I’ve known, the 12 Hours Sleep By 12 Weeks book, that Cory has so highly recommended in the past)

  13. I look forward to the day when my copy of “Go the Fuck to Sleep” arrives from Amazon. I will kick back to read it with a tall frosty glass of Tuscan Whole milk, while wearing my most comfortable Three Wolf Moon tee shirt.

  14. HOLLYWOOD, Washington, Saturday (NTN) — The Pentagon has released the home videos of Osama bin Laden, “a collection to horrify and stultify the hardest heart.”

    The tapes include bin Laden at Alton Towers with his children in the late 1990s, dealing with several screaming toddlers, shouting that if they did not behave they would be going home right now and there would be no ice cream for anyone and swearing that “this place and all such manifestations of Western decadence shall be scoured from the face of the earth.”

    Others include shaky-cam video of bin Laden and family in front of the Twin Towers in New York, in which video he clips one of the kids around the ear for being a brat and swears a similar oath of destruction, and a tediously-narrated clip of one of the children using the potty for the first time.

    Middle-aged fathers the world around viewed the clips in tears and came to a new understanding, deep within their hearts, of the forces driving radical jihadism.

    The Pentagon hopes to study the films for security information. “Another video shows him watching the tape of the child on the potty,” says a spokesman. “From his face, we suspect the next Al-Qaeda target would have been the Sony factory in Japan.”

    A spokesman for Alton Towers noted that, as Satanically cursed ground upon which no joy could grow and which was invulnerable to the slights and arrows of mere pathetic mortals, the amusement park would remain open and operational for this summer and all summers for the foreseeable future. “Muwaaaahahahaha,” he added.

    My blog post: http://newstechnica.com/?p=3112

  15. I was almost ready to buy one for two couples who have kids I spend a LOT of time with, but I guess I’m the only person in the world who read it and thought it was crap. Really forcing the profanity at the expense of good writing. I was underwhelmed and disappointed considering all the hype.

  16. I think this is a case of a physical format having a particular link to the humor, riffing on parental frustration. If it were just a PDF, it wouldn’t be nearly as funny. So the success of this book was not just piracy, but due to both the sharing aspect and the resonance with a particular audience (parents), rising through grassroots social media.

    More complete response at http://bit.ly/jk91EX

  17. I saw this a few weeks ago when a friend sent me a pirated copy of the PDF, and laughed pretty hard and had to have a copy of the printed book myself. I wouldn’t have considered ordering it or even have heard of it otherwise.

    I’ve never seen a case where something was pirated and became wildly popular that didn’t do better sales because of it.

    I truly believe that freedom, free culture, open sharing, and collaboration are the future. now if only we can somehow shake off the huge bloated parasite that has been draining artists and consumers and stifling real creativity for decades.

    PS. @treeswing, I can see your perspective, it is mainly funny if you have had kids yourself and can relate to thinking those exact same things, but not saying them. the profanity twist is that most of us at one point or another have had these thoughts when we are stretched so thing from many nights lack of sleep. i seriously doubt anyone who hasn’t had kids would find anything remotely amusing about this book, personally i know i wouldn’t have “got it” before.

  18. I think this is a case of social media helping sales of a book that has a particularly strong reason to exist in physical format. A PDF called “go the fuck to sleep” wouldn’t be nearly as funny. It also has a particular resonance and meaning with parents, which seems to be drowned out in favor of the viral/piracy argument… I doubt sales of other types of books would benefit from this kind of marketing in the same way. More complete response here: http://bit.ly/jk91EX

  19. This is little more than a stupid gag item fad. I doubt very much if it will be in the running for a Caldecott award. One unfortunate side effect of modern communications seem to be the almost instant celebrity that accompanies the most cringe-worthy creations: witness the popularity of moronic web junk like keyboard cat and much of the other highly-viewed Youtube drivel.

    It will be forgotten just as quickly, except in guilty reminisces similar to the head shaking you see among baby boomers when someone mentions disco or the pet rock.

    It is not the business model of the future. It is the get rich quick scheme of the past, and more people will make money telling you how you can do it than will actually succeed at it, because it is largely dumb luck.

  20. I think the biggest reason that “piracy” actually negatively affects product sales is that after trying out a pirated version of something, consumers are exposed to the tripe media conglomerates push out just to make a quick buck. When faced with an advance version of something consumers actually would want to buy in the first place, it turns out (wonder of wonders) they actually buy it.

    Make, market, and release things that don’t suck and you won’t need to worry about piracy.

    1. Make, market, and release things that don’t suck and you won’t need to worry about piracy.

      You hit the nail on the head!

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