Tod Sacerdoti may be the father of the first bona fide Internet get-rich-quick scheme, and startlingly, it involves writing. The 2003 Stanford M.B.A. authored How to Use Google, which remained number 1, 2, or 3 in the Amazon sales rankings from its July debut until it was accidentally delisted from the site last month. How to Use Google is not exactly a book, but a 12-page PDF, retailing for $1.99 and readable in 30 minutes, that promises more efficiency with the near omniscient search engine.
Until now, e-book sales, mostly of doorstop bestsellers and geek books in clunky, incompatible formats, have slumped along behind those of the paper-and-glue kind. But a serious Internet-based trade in digital print content might be coming soon. Sacerdoti’s Titanium Books is now applying his iTunes-like sales model to 10- to 20-page summaries of popular nonfiction books, titles like Jack: Straight From the Gut and Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, as well as some originals. His position, rosy for him but depressing for publishing, is that nonfiction bestsellers are precisely the types of books that one really only reads 20 pages of. So why not save $21.95? “I’ve contacted a bunch of publishers, and some have said, please don’t do this, some have said, please do do this, and some have said they don’t care,” he says. “But when they see what kinds of sales we can get, they will care.”