Last year we covered Ars Technica publishing John Siracusa’s 27,000-word comprehensive review of OS X 10.7 Lion as an e-book, and the very successful sales numbers for a review that could still be read free on-line. This year, with the release of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Siracusa has done it again—but as the Nieman Journalism Lab reports, the process has not been without snafus.
Since Mountain Lion was under NDA until the day it launched, that means that the e-book had to be submitted to Amazon at the same time the article was allowed to be published online for the first time, meaning that the general-public e-book release through Amazon is delayed until Amazon’s review process completes.
As for iBooks, forget it; Apple’s review process would take up to two weeks, and Siracusa himself says that an iBookstore release probably isn’t happening. However, a DRM-free EPUB version that can be read in iBooks can be downloaded by Ars Technica Premium subscribers, and one month of Premium costs the same $5 as the e-book itself and gets you a month free of ads on the site to boot.
Creating the e-book was not without some hassles, it seems. Siracusa recommends using a Kindle Format 8 capable device to read it, for the better formatting. The OS X and Kindle Fire readers support KF 8, but the iOS app does not.
Unlike last year’s review, in which Siracusa received a flat fee for the e-book and didn’t share in the royalties, this year’s contract was negotiated with a view to giving Siracusa a share in the royalties for each copy sold.
Ars founder and editor Ken Fisher notes that most people will still read the review on the web, which is still Ars’s primary way of publishing its content and presumably always will be. But e-book fans love the convenience of a single file, and Siracusa has noted that buying the e-book is a great way for fans to say “thanks” and get something nice in return.
Regardless, it seems pretty clear that selling long articles as e-books is a simple way for electronic magazines to rake in a little extra revenue. Since they have the content electronically already, and the time and effort of reformatting it won’t cost much, it’s almost like found money. And it’s nice that Siracusa gets to benefit a little more directly from higher sales, too.