Challenging Notions of "Free"

Brian O’Leary (Magellan Media), Mac Slocum (O'Reilly), Chelsea Vaughn (Random House)
Location: Broadway South (6th Floor) Level:
Average rating: ****.
(4.25, 4 ratings)

As digital content has become more available and more commonly
distributed in book publishing, fears of piracy and lost sales have
grown. The rise of peer-to-peer file sharing sites has likely
amplified these fears. While the debate over the impact of “free”
content has been at times heated, the discussions are more often than
not characterized by a lack of hard data.

To address this data gap, O’Reilly Media began a project in 2008 to
characterize the “free” universe, catalog and assess recent
experiments, establish ways to measure the benefit or cost of free
distribution and conduct some follow-on experiments of our own.
O’Reilly is joined in this effort by Random House, which contributed
data for several of its own tests.

Come to this session to hear an interim report on the initial phase of
this ongoing study, including a preliminary model of where and when
free distribution works as well as what’s worth continuing to track
over time.

Photo of Brian O’Leary

Brian O’Leary

Magellan Media

Brian O’Leary is founder and principal of Magellan Media, a management consulting firm that works with publishers seeking support in content operations, benchmarking and financial analysis.

O’Leary writes extensively about issues affecting the publishing industry. With Hugh McGuire, he edited “Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto”, a collection of forward-looking essays on publishing that was published in three parts by O’Reilly Media.

O’Leary is also the author of a research report on the impact of free content and digital piracy on paid book sales, as well as the editor and primary contributor for a study of the use of XML in book publishing. Both reports were published by O’Reilly Media.

Before becoming a consultant, O’Leary served as senior VP and associate publisher with Hammond Inc., an internationally recognized geographic reference publisher. Responsible for database development, editorial content, production, and operations, he restructured editorial operations to benefit from the firm’s prior technology investments.

O’Leary came to Hammond after a 12-year career overseeing production and distribution operations at several of Time Inc.’s weekly magazines. He earned an A.B. in chemistry from Harvard College and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

Photo of Mac Slocum

Mac Slocum


Mac Slocum is the director of online content for O’Reilly Media.

Photo of Chelsea Vaughn

Chelsea Vaughn

Random House

Chelsea Vaughn is director of business development for the Random
House direct-to-consumer online marketing and sales group. She’s been
at Random House since 2001; prior to her current role, she was
director of corporate development and director of business operations
for the Crown Publishing Group. Before business school, she worked in
editorial roles at W. W. Norton & Company and Ten Speed Press. At Ten
Speed, she edited two James Beard-award winning cookbooks. Chelsea
earned an MBA in media marketing and finance from Wharton, and a BA in
English from Yale.

  • Impelsys Inc.
  • Ingram Industries
  • oXygen XML Editor
  • Adobe Systems, Inc.
  • codeMantra
  • Connotate
  • DPCI
  • Innodata Isogen, Inc.
  • LibreDigital
  • Lulu
  • Malloy
  • Mark Logic
  • Media Services Group
  • Quark, Inc.
  • ReadHowYouWant
  • RSuite
  • Safari Books Online
  • Smashwords, Inc.
  • Sterling Commerce
  • Verso Digital

Sponsorship Opportunities

For information on exhibition and sponsorship opportunities at the conference, contact Sharon Cordesse at

Press and Media

For media-related inquiries, contact Maureen Jennings at

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