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Bandwidth Burns Author

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Glenn Fleishman decided to offer his book for free over the Internet, people took him up on it:

    instead of the few hundred downloads Fleishman expected, the book was downloaded about 10,000 times in just 36 hours. And because he’s charged incrementally for bandwidth, Fleishman estimates he could be billed $15,000 at the end of the month — possibly a lot more.

    “It’s a financial catastrophe,” said Fleishman. “I’m a working stiff with a mortgage … I never suspected the penalty would be so high for giving something away…. It’s like living in Singapore and getting 15 years in jail for chewing gum.”

    The book, released over a year ago and co-authored with Jeff Carlson, hadn’t been selling well in hard copy, and as a software manual it was nearing the end of its shelf life.

    Fleishman hoped offering the entire book as a free PDF download might kick-start sales. Instead of printing the 922 pages of the electronic version, he reasoned, readers might buy a hard copy on Amazon or elsewhere instead. The PDF file weighs in at a whopping 23 MB because of all the graphics it contains.

    An ex-programmer, Fleishman has authored numerous technical books and written for The New York Times. He also built the book-pricing website

    It simply never occurred to him, however, that so many people would want a free copy of his book.

    “I was aware I would be charged a fortune for high bandwidth,” he said. “But I never suspected we would have topped a few hundred downloads.”

    Fleishman posted the book in PDF format on the evening of March 18. It wasn’t until the morning of March 20 that he realized how much traffic it was attracting. He pulled the file, but by that time he was liable for downloads of about 250 GB of data. [Wired]

I believe the lesson is never assume you won’t be successful, especially where bandwidth charges are involved.

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About Eric Olsen

  • murphy

    He should do a Savekaryn thing and get people to help him pay for it.

  • san

    Murphy, I think he is, via Paypal and the like.

    I think his hosting service should give him a break on the whole bill. Or reduce the charges only to any out-of-pocket expenses incurred by his hosting service in order to maintain their services under the heavy load. Like the way telcos forgave your first round of 1-900 calls when that calling service was in vogue.

    This brings up a new issue. Should hosting services offer a bandwidth cap alert? A service option that shuts down your site at your monthly bandwidth limit until you specifically go in and authorize the overage?

  • Michelle

    My provider has this option. You just fill in the max bandwidht and once the site is over this limit it shuts down. Makes me sleep better. On the other hand, you can control what traffic you have via your statistics. So at one point (surely *before* the 250GB, that’s a hell of a lot of traffic) Mr. Fleischmann should have realized that A LOT of people are downloading his book. Then he could have taken the download offline to decrease damage. Easy as that. So if you aren’t able to check your statistics you have to pay the bill. Simple as that.

  • Steve Rhodes

    That happened to Dan Perkins (Tom Tomorrow) just do to the increased traffic on his site. He writes about it a ways down under feb. 19th.

    He got hit with a bandwidth penalty of $3,800 by earthlink and was able to negotiation them down and pay for it with donations to his site. He also moved to another hosting service (though his cost will double to about $2400 a year).

  • san

    Michelle, I can’t disagree that with a 23 MB download up there, he should have been monitoring his bandwidth. I check mine once in awhile, even though they have no real need to.

  • san