Random House announced today that they will start selling individual chapters of books for digital download. This may seem unrelated to film, but I think not. It's just another sign that companies need to start thinking about how their customers want to receive content and I think it has big implications for film. This is a wave that most obviously started with music - people wanting singles instead of the whole album, but I think the trend goes further back - its why digests have been important, for example. For many authors, the idea of someone only reading one of your chapters will be anathema, but it works well for certain types of content - indeed the trial run for Random House will be a business book ""Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die." Anyone who has ever read a business book can tell you that one chapter is enough!
I think this could also help people "preview" other books - download a chapter to your Kindle or your laptop and if you like it, buy the entire book. Free would work better, but its a good experiment, and NewsCorp announced, sure enough, that they'll make some of their titles available for free for a certain time. This should help people sample a work and see if they want to buy the whole thing.
I think this is relevant to film because many users of film don't want the entire work. Many professors, for example, might only want the "chapters" (like DVD ones) of your film that apply to what they are teaching.And why stop them, if you could make a sale? Sure, some might use it as a way to censor something, but they could do that by not showing a certain scene to the class on videotape, so that's not a concern to me. Sure, it doesn't give them your full artistic intent - but these buyers won't come to you for that, so why not make an extra sale on the content they want to see. I can also imagine viewers that just want to see the action scenes, or (more likely) just the chapter where people get naked, but as a filmmaker, if you can make another sale, all the better for you!
Its another way of versioning your content, and a good model to explore in film.