- 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 isbn.nu.
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.