The article, “Free Speech,” focuses on author Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist) and his recently revealed passion for putting his books online for free. This is not to say he doesn’t sell his books – he’s sold more than 100 million copies, in fact. But he doesn’t just say, it’s okay with me if you download my book instead of buying a copy. He works at making his books available online. He has a website that searches for sites that offer his books free. He pays scouts around the world to find where his books are available online.
And he’s convinced that offering his books for free has increased his sales. And … he’s just gotten around to telling his publisher what’s he’s been doing. And, so far, they haven’t tried to stop him. Of course, it helps that “Coelho owns all of the digital rights to his work, except for his contract for English editions with HarperCollins.” On the other hand, his publisher could take action to limit the distribution or to fix the distribution so copies couldn’t be shared. But so far, they haven’t. And Coelho doesn’t think publishers should be worried.
A collection of short stories Coelho wrote specifically for the Internet in 2000 was downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, but not a single reader took up his invitation to comment on it. Readers only began writing in when some of the stories appeared, six years later, in the book "Like a Flowing River," which sold 180,000 copies in the United Kingdom and other English-speaking territories.
It shouldn’t be working that way. And yet …