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Debut eBook Hits 700,000 Downloads on BitTorrent Bundle, Reveals Problems with the Platform

coverEver since BitTorrent first announced its BitTorrent Bundle platform in May 2013, I’ve wondered whether it could prove to be a useful channel for selling enhanced ebooks, digital comics, audiobooks, and other bulky files.

While we still don’t know if BitTorrent Bundle is going to be able to generate meaningful revenue for authors, I can report today that it’s possible to generate a large number of downloads.

A press release crossed my desk today from the creator of H8 Society, an enhanced ebook.  The author is claiming that the ebook has been downloaded 700,000 times in the two weeks since the ebook was released on BitTorrent Bundle.

That’s an impressive number, but it comes with several caveats.

As with any report of record downloads, one must remember that downloads  =/= sales. In fact, there is absolutely no money involved here; the ebook in question was a freebie to anyone who submitted their email address (you can get it here).

Depending on whether you take the short view or the long view, 700,000 email addresses could actually be worth more than the revenue that a sale might have generated. Those email addresses are an opportunity for marketing to interested readers.  While I had never considered BitTorrent Bundle as a marketing channel, the opportunity to pitch content in the future can’t be dismissed lightly.

And that’s a good thing, because this ebook showed me that technical issues may impact direct sales through BitTorrent Bundle.

The ebook in question, H8 Society, is a fairly ordinary ePub with embedded MP3 files which can be played while reading (so long as you don’t try and turn the page). Downloading the ebook was easy (it was part of a 1.4GB torrent) but playing it was not.  I had to read the instructions, install Readium, figure out which version of the ebook I should load, and then load the ebook into Readium.

I know that doesn’t sound like much work, but each extra step means more lost readers, and that is why I suggest that anything distributed via BitTorrent Bundle should be kept as simple as possible. Ideally one should only offer content which you know users will be able to use on virtually any device: PDFs, MP3 files, and common image formats.

I think that the more technically complicated content (and that includes most ebook formats) should be left for a future sales pitch, one where you can also direct the reader to the major ebookstores.

I could be wrong on that; I just happen to believe in keeping something as simple as possible. But even if I am wrong, there is much that we can learn from this giveaway.

So tell me, have you been looking at BitTorrent Bundle with an eye to selling content there? What do you think?

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frmorrison May 21, 2015 um 10:33 pm

I never heard of the ebook, but I am going to give it the ebook a try. I just clicked download and it started to download in my BitTorrent client. The total size of the free bundle is 636 MB.

Nate Hoffelder May 21, 2015 um 10:39 pm

Much of that 600MB is wasted on a couple promo videos.

Sheogorath July 13, 2015 um 3:27 pm

[…] the ebook in question was a freebie to anyone who submitted their email address (you can get it here).
No, I can’t; the linked website is a dirty browser sniffer.

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