Coelho’s view is that letting people swap digital copies of his books for free increases sales. In a keynote speech (embedded below) at the Digital, Life, Design conference in Munich he talked about how uploading the Russian translation of “The Alchemist” made his sales in Russia go from around 1,000 per year to 100,000, then a million and more. He said:
In 2001, I sold 10,000 hard copies. And everyone was puzzled. We came from zero, from 1000, to 10,000. And then the next year we were over 100,000. [...]
I thought that this is fantastic. You give to the reader the possibility of reading your books and choosing whether to buy it or not. [...]
So, I went to BitTorrent and I got all my pirate editions… And I created a site called The Pirate Coelho.
He’s convinced â€” and rightly so â€” that letting people download free copies of his books helps sales. For him the problem is getting around copyright laws that require him to get the permission of his translators if he wants to share copies of his books in other languages.
So is Coelho just seeding torrents of his books? That’s just the beginning. He took it one step further and, as quoted above, set up a WordPress blog, Pirate Coelho, where he posts links to free copies of his books on filesharing networks, FTP sites, and so on. He says it had a direct impact on sales:
Believe it or not, the sales of the book increased a lot thanks to the Pirate Coelho site…
In his speech he talks about how the Internet is changing language and books, and how online “piracy” and BitTorrent have helped him not only be more widely read, but also sell more books! It’s a must watch.