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Free Books on the Internet: HarperCollins, Oprah, and Yale Join the Fray

Given our fondness for all things publishing here at Freakonomics, we’ve been following the development of e-books with particular interest. In the past few weeks, it appears that the free e-book movement has officially begun. Last week, publishing monolith HarperCollins (the publisher of Freakonomics) announced that it would offer free electronic editions of a group of its books on the company’s Web site. This week, Suze Orman‘s Women & Money made headlines when more than 1 million copies were downloaded after Oprah Winfrey announced the book’s Internet availability on her show.

Now, author and George Washington University associate law professor Dan Solove informs us that Yale University Press has allowed him to put the full text of his new book, The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet, in free downloadable format on the book’s Web site. The publisher has also started releasing other their titles, such as Yochai Benkler‘s The Wealth of Networks, in full on the Internet.

It remains to be seen whether availability online will translate to higher sales for these books, though 1 million downloads in one day certainly bodes well for both Orman’s sales figures and e-books’ overall popularity. Whether this movement will lead to the rise of the Kindle remains to be seen.