Northshire & Powell's Offer Free Random House Download

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    From 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, February 27, until midnight on Friday, February 29, Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, and Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon, are offering customers free downloads of Random House's Beautiful Children by Charles Bock via their websites www.northshire.com and www.powells.com, respectively. The publisher, which is also offering the free download on its own website, invited both chain and independent online retailers to participate. Others featuring the download are Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.

    "By making it available for free, we're introducing [Beautiful Children] to new readers who may decide to buy a copy after sampling it," said Avideh Bashirrad, deputy director of marketing at Random House. "Building consumer awareness for the book will likely drive more business to booksellers, many of whom have supported the book and contributed to its early success. We're really pleased that Powell's and Northshire Bookstore are demonstrating their continued support by making the free download available to their online customers."

    Chris Morrow, general manger of Northshire, which features information about the download front and center on its website, considered participating in the Random House three-day web event a "learning opportunity," as well as a chance to take advantage of any buzz generated by the offer. "It adds to the perception amongst our customers that we are trying new things to generate interest in books and reading." Morrow noted that shortly after Northshire made Beautiful Children available, a customer thanked him for the free download.

    Dave Weich of Powell's considered the collaboration an intriguing experiment with digital downloads and a chance to follow their effect on sales. "I'd be curious to see how many downloads are requested," he said.

    Powell's primary objective in participating, however, was customer service. "If there's something our customers want, we're happy to make it available to them. The whole philosophy of Powell's is to offer our customers everything we can, keep them in the loop, and let them decide." He added, "It's a great way to sample an author you've never read before, but who's getting a lot of buzz."

    Random House is supporting the free download with national print advertising, targeted college newspaper and blog advertising, and a viral e-mail campaign. --Karen Schechner

    In other news, Random House Audio has announced that it will begin selling audiobooks without DRM (digital rights management) encryption beginning March 1. In September, Random House Audio made 500 DRM-free titles available on eMusic and concluded that none of the titles ended up on file-sharing networks as pirated material.

    One benefit for consumers is that audiobooks will now be easily transferable from one digital device to another, something that has been difficult in the past.