I don’t have time to comment fully on this — if you’ve been paying attention, you can guess the things I usually say — but take a look at the latest development from Seth Godin’s ‘The Domino Project’.
Right on so many levels: a public-domain text, cleaned up and dressed nicely for digital distribution, sponsored by an advertiser who senses a link with the title, free for download — the value to the sponsor being the advertising benefit of the association. Now, I haven’t been able to look inside (the UK, you understand, is separated from the US by an electronic gap that prevents transmission of digital data across the continental boundary), but even if Domino’s realisation of the project falls short, there’s no earthly reason why someone else couldn’t step up and do it right the next time. In fact, if I were Seth, I’d be gearing up to hit this hard again very soon. He stands to gain the most from getting the fastest publish>correct>publish cycle to market (even if his only aim is strictly to catalyse the e-book marketplace) — as he knows: ‘Speed triumphs. Rapid time to market, rapid evolution, rapid response to reader feedback.’
N.B. Remember that Seth has for a long time had the textbook publishing marketplace in his sights. Connect these dots.