The San Francisco Chronicle recently ran a story about fledgling authors who get their start by publishing their books online, via podcast:
The basic idea is, the author reads their novel a chunk at a time, recording it, and publishing the recordings on a regular, sequential basis. A chapter a week is a common pattern. Interested listeners can download the recordings and listen to them on their computer, iPod, whatever. For free.
The best news is that iTunes can make receiving the periodic recordings totally automatic. Once you subscribe to the author’s podcast, the chapters will be downloaded automatically as published, and can even be automatically transferred to your iPod. Very slick.
The article has more details about the hows and whys, including references to the podcasts for several authors who got started podcasting, but are now professionally published, so it’s not just “hey, look at this cool technology” informative, it’s also got direct links to new authors and books for you to check out.