The concept of free and Google Book Search and electronic publishing might scare off many a trade publisher, but for the right projects, perfect matches can be found. The WSJ’s Jeff Trachtenberg looks at how travel publishers are embracing the web for their needs, realizing that by offering free Web content based on their books, they can attract enough traffic to generate advertising and other revenue — as well as promote their titles. Publishers such as Wiley, Frommers and Fodor’s are realizing that by offering free Web content based on their books, they can attract enough traffic to generate advertising and other revenue — to the tune of $10 million and $15 million in advertising annually — as well as promote their titles.
These initiatives raise a question in Trachtenberg’s mind: Could this go further, where advertisers are targeting readers of a particular author? So far, the country’s biggest-selling writers have steered clear of ads. James Patterson, the former ad executive turned novelist, offers all sorts of free content on his Web site, including brief excerpts of some of his novels. But the site hasn’t solicited advertising, concerned that ads for other businesses could turn off Patterson fans and hurt book sales. “We’re considering side businesses but we have to put them through the filter of whether it advances the value of the Web to our readers,” says Steve Bowen, president of James Patterson Entertainment. “It’s a hollow victory if you end up undermining your core business.”