By DAVE GUSSOW
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 5, 2001
Bruce Fries' book on MP3 music sells as a conventional book for $24.95. He also makes it available to download free from his Web site, yet some people pay him for it voluntarily.
It's an example the recording industry should heed as it fights Napster, the music-sharing Web site, said Fries, who wrote The MP3 and Internet Audio Handbook (TeamCom Books, $24.95) with his brother, Marty.
"If you make something available for free and price the product properly, you're still going to get some sales on it," Fries said.
Fries visited the Tampa Bay area recently to promote the book, which was No. 20 on Amazon.com's bestseller list in St. Petersburg last week. He chatted with Tech Times about the Napster case as well as the increasing popularity of Internet music beyond its base among teen rap and rock fans.
Fries, 42, has sold 10,000 copies of the first run of 15,000. About 500 copies have been downloaded from the Web (www.teamcombooks.com).
The book has created a new career as a publisher for Fries, who also has worked as a technology consultant. His company will come out with a non-tech book soon, and some spinoffs from the MP3 book are planned: a professional edition for more serious users, a condensed version for consumers who want only the basics and a book on recording CDs.
While Internet music is more than Napster, the popularity of the Web site has made it synonymous with the phenomenon of recent years. Fries said the record industry is partly responsible for Napster, which has attracted millions of users as well as a court battle that threatens to shut it down.
The music industry "recognized that the market wants downloadable songs," he said. But their fears about unauthorized downloading "created Napster because they chose not to fulfill demand."
Fries thinks Napster or something like it will survive because the public clearly wants such a service. Napster built its following because it offered the widest selection of music at one site. The fact that it's free helps, particularly with the cost of CDs.
"Eighteen bucks is a lot if you just want one song," Fries said, and record companies are too tied to the idea of CD sales instead of offering consumers other choices.
Fries isn't pitching his book just to young Napster fans. In fact, based on his book sales, areas rich in retirees such as Florida, Arizona and California are on Fries' tour itinerary.
"With a lot of these seniors and computer clubs, I don't need to convince them that it's worthwhile to learn these new technologies," as he sometimes has to do with younger audiences, he said. "They're more interested in what they need to do to get started."
Seniors "have the computers and the leisure time, so they're very open to new uses, especially those that have entertainment value."
Fries' book is a basic primer on Internet music, explaining everything from formats to how to download music to how to connect a stereo to a computer. Because seniors tend to be newer to computers, he tries to keep presentations simple and easy to follow, as he did at an appearance at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Clearwater. He held up a Rio MP3 player, showed the memory card that stores the music and demonstrated how to use jukebox software for song lists.
"Any book on a computer-related topic should have as much troubleshooting information as possible," he said, "because they're going to run into problems."
- Contact Dave Gussow at email@example.com or (727) 445-4228.