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Bloggers, podcasters, and other social media experts have often claimed that the release of free digital content, like podcasts of books, helps books sales. Grammar Girl and Scott Sigler have proven this true in their own ways. But now there is more than anecdotal evidence.

Researchers at BYU found that release of free ebooks correlates to increased to print sales of the book titles
. John Hilton III and David Wiley studied 41 books, placing them in four categories. Three of the four categories had increased sales after the free ebooks versions were released. Across all four categories sales were up 5%, even with decreased sales in one category. The categories were non-fiction (increased), Science Fiction/Fantasy Books (increased), Random House Books (all sci fi/fantasy, increased), Tor (decreased). The authors suggests that the difference for Tor books may be “Tor’s model of making the books available for one week only and requiring registration in order to download the book was substantially different from the models used to create free versions of the other books we studied,” but this requires further study.

It would be interesting to see how this applies to other media, like music… Time for another study? Any takers?

Check out the full (and short) journal article by Hilton and Wiley, published in the Journal of Electronic Publishing (JEP) (13.1 Winter 2010).

Read More: BoingBoing discusses this too, as does Scalzi on Whatever.

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