Oprah Winfrey plug makes business book, ‘Women & Money,’ a Web sensation



By Hillel Italie

NEW YORK – The Oprah touch doesn’t just work for traditional books.

More than 1 million copies of Suze Orman’s “Women & Money” were downloaded after the announcement last week on Winfrey’s television show that the e-book edition would be available for free on her Web site, www.oprah.com, for a period of 33 hours.

“I believe ‘Women & Money’ is the most important book I’ve ever written,” Orman said in a statement released Saturday by Winfrey. “So this was not about getting people to buy the book, but getting them to read it, and that was the intention behind this offer.”

The download offer “has built excitement for Suze’s book across all formats,” Julie Grau, the book’s publisher, said in a statement.

According to Saturday’s statement from Winfrey, more than 1.1 million copies of Orman’s financial advice book were downloaded in English, and another 19,000 in Spanish. The demand compares to such free online sensations as “The 9-11 Commission Report,” which the federal government made available for downloads, and Stephen King’s e-novella, “Riding the Bullet.”

The publishing community has endlessly debated the effects of making text available online, with some saying that free downloading is a valuable promotional tool and others worrying that sales for paper editions would be harmed. The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers each have sued Google for its plans to scan and index books for the Internet.

The offer for “Women & Money,” originally released a year ago by Spiegel & Grau, a division of Random House, Inc., has not kept people from buying the traditional version. As of Saturday, the book ranked No. 6 on Amazon.com. The paper edition of “The 9-11 Commission Report,” published in 2004 by W.W. Norton and Co., was a best seller for months.

“I can tell you that with respect to the ‘9-11 Report,’ the free download did not seem to hurt sales at all,” Norton publisher Drake McFeely told The Associated Press on Saturday. “There were people who wanted it quickly, in a less convenient form, and that was clearly a different market from the people who wanted the traditional book.”

He said free downloading of books does concern publishers, but “if Norton had been given the opportunity for an Oprah Winfrey plug, and part of the deal was making the book free online, we would have gladly taken it.”