With Amazon Publishing Stonewalled By Retailers, Tim Ferriss Taps BitTorrent To Market His New Book

Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention, and a stalemate between Amazon and big retailers, including Barnes & Noble, over the sale of books from the online giant’s publishing imprint is giving a fillip to BitTorrent — once a hotbed of piracy, and now a straight-laced and legal content distribution network — as a platform for marketing books. Tim Ferriss, one of the authors signed to the Amazon imprint, has inked a deal with BitTorrent to promote his latest work, The 4-Hour Chef, a publishing deal first announced in August 2011 for hardover, e-book and audio editions of the book.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

BitTorrent says it currently has 160 million monthly active users — “more users than Hulu, Netflix and Spotify combined,” it claims, driving between 20% and 40% of all internet traffic. It has been building up a marketing business it calls Bundles, in which it offers users content related to a recent launch of an entertainment or media brand. It looks like Bundles have mainly been used for music launches for groups like Counting Crows, Pretty Lights and Death Grips.

For music, BitTorrent appears to be doing well. According to Musicmetric, the BitTorrent network oversaw 405 million (legal) music downloads in the first six months of this year. Of those, 124 million were through working with musicians directly to make Bundles. “We’re really excited to work with Tim to see if we can add the same kind of value for one of the most talented authors in book publishing,” said Eric Klinker, CEO of BitTorrent, in a statement.

According to a BitTorrent blog post announcing the news, to coincide with the book being launched on November 20, BitTorrent users

“will get exclusive access to media from Tim: content from the book, as well as unpublished material. We’ll be distributing the writer’s process: the photos, drafts, videos and recipes that shaped Tim’s journey. And we’ll be asking users to support Tim and the Amazon imprint.”

The 4-Hour Chef is the latest in a series of 4-Hour self-help/pop-education books from Ferriss. This one is described as a “practical and unusual guide to mastering both cooking and life,” and is a compilation of recipes from famous people from all walks of life, glued together by Ferriss’ narrative. The four hours, incidentally, is meant to be a riposte to the belief that it takes 10,000 hours of learning time to master something.

A BitTorrent spokesperson says that this deal is directly with Ferriss himself, not Amazon, so it’s not clear whether there will be more Amazon books coming through this particular marketing channel. He also tells me that this is not the first book that has been marketed by BitTorrent.

Given that Amazon is what it is, it’s not clear who this deal will benefit more, best-selling author Ferriss/e-tailing leviathan Amazon or BitTorrent. But, yes, it will be an interesting look at whether a video/music network can be an effective place to package and distribute content bundles to promote books.

And as more artists and content creators take to BitTorrent to market themselves, the more viable this becomes as another revenue stream for the company. “The nature of publishing has fundamentally changed,” Tim Ferriss said in a statement. “The business models and marketing must change to reflect what consumers want… BitTorrent is a technology and ecosystem that is part of this sustainable future for content. There’s no turning back, and I want to embrace the change-makers.”