Scott Sigler's new book INFECTED is in stores on April 1 and for the next four days, it will also be available as a free PDF download from Random House's website. Scott made his name by writing and podcasting high-quality science fiction novels under Creative Commons, and eventually, Random House's Crown imprint came knocking.
But publishers are schizophrenic and often end up acting really dumb in the service of trying to do something smart. Crown is putting Scott's book online for free as a PDF, but they're taking it down after only four days — presumably just in time to kill whatever momentum the downloads are generating. If you happen upon this blog-post next week when it shows up on Digg, you're out of luck — no download to use to figure out if you want to buy the book.
Worse still: Crown is only making the download available before the book goes on sale! This is an act of massive goofiness. Here's what this means: the book's promotional download period ends before you can buy the book. If you download this book and love it, you can't walk down to the bookstore and pick up a copy. Sure, you can pre-order it on Amazon, but I know from watching my affiliate link payments here on Boing Boing that ten times as many of you buy books that are on sale when I blog them than buy books that have to be pre-ordered. The Internet exists in an eternal NOW, and expecting someone who downloads a book to hold onto the impulse to buy it for four days is so unrealistic, it makes me suspect that this strategy was conceived of by someone who doesn't actually use the Internet.
Either Crown believes that free downloads sell books or they don't. There's no coherent explanation for a ticking-bomb download like this one; it's like the hesitation marks on the wrists of a half-ass suicide.
What's more, as a result of their time-limited download, they're going to lose the ability to compile good estimates of who's downloading the book and where they're coming from — fans of the book will no doubt keep it online on their own sites, scattered around the net, and new readers will download from all those sources, sources that Random House/Crown doesn't control, can't compile stats on, and will be totally in the dark on. So in addition to the sales they're throwing away by making the ebook harder to get, they're also throwing away the market intelligence they'd get by being the canonical download site for it.
Scott tells me that he'd much rather the book stay online perpetually, so this is definitely emanating from the publisher.
Onto the book — it looks like a hell of a thing:
Alida Garcia stumbled through the dense winter woods, blood marking
her long path, a bright red comet trail against the blazing white snow.
Her hands shook violently. She could barely make a fist out of her
talonlike fingers, nearly numb, wet from the big clumps of snow that fell
thick and fast all around her, melting almost as soon as they hit her skin.
When the time came, could she even pull the trigger on Luis's old revolver?
A searing pain in her stomach brought her thoughts back to the mission, the divine mission.
Something was wrong. Well, fuck, it was all wrong, and had been from
the first moment she started scratching at her belly and her elbow. But
something was even more wrong, something inside. It wasn't supposed
to be like this . . . somehow, she knew that.
She looked behind her, along the bloody path through the snow, eyes
searching for pursuit. She saw nothing. She'd spent years in fear of the
INS, but it was different now. They didn't want to deport her – now
they wanted her dead.