Ars Technica Makes $15,000 Selling Free Article as E-Book

The tech website's review of OS X Lion makes its way onto Kindle

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Last week, tech website Ars Technica's John Siracusa published his massive, comprehensive review of OS X Lion, Apple's newest operating system. Siracusa's word is often treated as gospel among techies when it comes to Apple products, and Ars Technica's capitalizes on his authority in all things Apple by hiring the freelancer to write their reviews of the company's operating systems whenever a new one comes to market.

Like any Internet-based publication, Ars Technica posted Siracusa's 27,000-word article online for free. But this time around, the website found another revenue stream for the review, according to Andrew Phelps at the Nieman Journalism Lab. The site packaged the article as an e-book and sold it to Kindle users for $5 a pop. Within the first 24 hours the e-book was available, 3,000 copies were sold. That means Ars Technica made $15,000 selling something available online for free. (The e-book, oddly, isn't available in Apple's eBookstore just due to the company's long review process for book sold there.)

Might this an indication that consumers are willing to pay of media content? Siracusa is a true expert on Apple products, and those 3,000 buyers were willing to pay a premium for premier content. "I was surprised by how many people told us they read the review online and they just wanted their own copy to go back to. Or they just bought it as a tip-jar kind of thing," Ars founder Ken Fisher said. But as Nieman's Andrew Phelps points out, that's only a fraction of the 3 million pageviews the online version received. Not the best news for hopeful journalists. Even worse is that as a freelancer who, according to Nieman, gets a "one-time advance payment" for his reviews, Siracusa won't get any money from the e-book sales.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.