It is already a classic case and one that is probably being taught in e-commerce classes at B-schools around the country. In 1988, a British mountain climber named Joe Simpson wrote a book called Touching the Void, about a climber experiencing a near death episode in the Peruvian Andes. It was a very good book, but only had limited success. Ten years later, Jon Krakauer, a well known journalist for Outside magazine, wrote Into Thin Air, another book about the fatalities and perils of mountain-climbing at Mt. Everest, which became a huge success. All of a sudden Touching the Void started to sell again. Why? Because the power of the Web was wagging its Long Tail. E-commerce sites such as Amazon.com started using recommendation technologies to say, “If you like Into Thin Air then you might like to read Touching the Void." A book that was nearly out of print was now selling again and very well I might add.
But let’s take this one step further, perhaps it’s time for publishers to use on-demand technologies to leverage their deep content and even reissue good material that falls just under the line for a book to stay in print. The aggregate of sales on books that sell only a few copies a month, times several hundred or thousand titles will add up to significant revenue. Coupling recommendation engines with an on-demand publishing capability can be very powerful. Publishing companies can not only satisfy their customers' eclectic tastes but also add profits to their bottom line in a safe and economical way.