open educational resources, online technology, digital publishing


With increasing frequency, authors in academic and non-academic fields are releasing their books for free digital distribution. Anecdotal evidence suggests that exposure to both authors and books increases when books are available as free downloads, and that print sales are not negatively affected. For this study we interviewed ten authors to determine their perceptions of the effect free digital distribution has on the impact and sales of their work. In addition, we examined the sales data of two books over a two year period of time, in which one book was freely available for the second year. All of the individuals we surveyed felt free digital downloads increased the distribution and impact of their book. None of the authors felt that print sales were negatively affected. Data from our book sale comparison suggest that in the case we studied, free digital distribution did not negatively affect sales.

Original Publication Citation

Hilton, J. & Wiley, D. (21). Free: Why authors are giving books away on the Internet. Tech Trends, 54(1).

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Springer Verlag




David O. McKay School of Education


Instructional Psychology and Technology