On the consequences of making books freely available online
Earlier today I posted the final beta chapter of my book about neural networks at http://neuralnetworksanddeeplearning.com
The book is online and freely available.
One pleasing consequence of this availability is that many people get to see the book - the book will pass 400,000 readers later today or tomorrow, according to Google Analytics. Of course, that number is not a true representation of impact, since many of those people no doubt glanced briefly at the book, and decided to move on to other things.
But there is a closely related number that gives me particular pleasure: according to Google Analytics the book has been downloaded in 208 countries. That list includes places such as Djibouti, Comoros, Burkina Faso, and many others.
As in other countries, no doubt some of the readers in those countries only looked briefly at the book. But I'm truly delighted that putting the book freely online gives people all over the world the opportunity to look at the book, and decide if it might be useful to them.
If I'd gone the conventional publishing route, my book would just now be entering production, and would have been seen by perhaps a few dozen people, probably in 2 or 3 countries. Online availability really makes a big difference!