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Over 1M Downloads for Tim Ferriss’ BitTorrent Bundle

Tim Ferris The 4-Hour Chef [1]The publishing industry (understandably) made a lot of noise last November when the news broke that self-improvement author Tim Ferriss would be promoting his newest book project, The 4-Hour Chef [2], on BitTorrent [3], a site that will probably always be associated with illegal online file-sharing.

The promotion [4]—a free, downloadable BitTorrent bundle that includes interviews, candid author photos, the first chapter of the book and more—was at least partly conceived as a response to Barnes & Noble, which has publicly refused [5] to carry any books published by Amazon, its top competitor. According to an article [6] by USA Today reporter Dierdre Donahue [7], a number of independent bookstores have followed B&N’s boycotting lead, also vowing never to sell an Amazon-published title.

But regardless of whether the Amazon-banning booksellers are responding from a place of sheer jealousy or pure business-minded competition, the plan doesn’t seem to have had much success. On December 29, Tim Ferriss posted a status update on his Facebook fan page [8] claiming that his BitTorrent Bundle had so far been downloaded 1,159,005 times. And certainly more important—at least from a financial point of view—the book itself has since gone on to become a run-away bestseller [9], charting on all the major lists [10].

Yes, you could certainly argue that these days, just about any Tim Ferriss project, published through just about any venue, is going to become a bestseller. And you’d probably be right. But the larger point, I’d say, was the Ferriss-BitTorrent collaboration itself: An unusual digital publishing experiment that was launched in an effort to solve a frustrating, modern-day publishing problem. And furthermore, as Ferriss wrote in a November 30 blog post [10]:

“The BitTorrent conversion is NUTS. Of 210,000 downloads (of this bundle [11]) earlier this week, more than 85,000 clicked through “Support the Author” to the book’s Amazon page [12]. We all had to triple and quadruple check that to believe it.”

It’s probably a good lessen for content creators and publishers alike to keep in mind, especially when you consider that just about every publishing venture today is frustrating, and risky, and a dozen other potentially negative adjectives.

To put it another way: There’s probably a solution out there, somewhere. The trick seems to involve some combination of being creative enough to dream it up, and being brave to give it a try.