BitTorrent gets into ebook distribution

Captive - Megan Lisa Jones

Why buy an electronic book from an ebookstore when you can get it for free via BitTorrent? That’s the idea behind the peer-to-peer file sharing service’s new initiative: they’re offering Megan Lisa Jones‘ political thriller Captive as a free download in both PDF and ePub formats, along with a video introduction with the author. The move markes BitTorrent’s first book release, complementing offerings from musicians and filmmakers who have used BitTorrent to reach out to audiences. However, the Captive promotion lasts for just two weeks: after that, readers will have to pay actual money to download a legal copy.

“We’re very pleased to be working with Ms. Jones to explore this medium,” said BitTorrent chief strategist Shahi Ghanem, in a statement “Our joint efforts will provide an enjoyable book to over 100 million users around the world. Plus the results of our ongoing Artist Spotlight pilot program are providing valuable insight into new—and viable—media distribution models.”

Of course, the free download offer is intended to promote both Ms. Jones and Captive, and users are encourages to interact with the author via Twitter, Amazon reviews, Facebook, and the author’s blog and Web site—where, not coincidentally, readers can sign up for information about a sequel.

BitTorrent is, of course, mainly known as the technology behind a significant amount of illegal downloading of copyrighted material, as clearinghouses like the Pirate Bay share links to torrents amongst millions of Internet users. However, BitTorrent the company has been trying to make a name for itself as a legitimate media distribution mechanism that’s independent of publishers and the traditional content industry—and they’ve had some success, with the punk band Sick of Sarah racking up a million downloads in a few week’s time.