Money For Nothing And The Books For Free

I remember reading a few years back an article discussing the worries of writers and publishers about eBook piracy.   The fears expressed in that article,  that books would soon be subjected to the same large scale piracy the music and movie industries have been fighting for some time now seemed frankly overblown to me.  Though who could have imagined that free would become the new default price point for books.

I have been very much enjoying my new tablet as an eReader.    I have read a number of books already and have several more downloaded and waiting for my attention.   I have not actually bought and paid for any books so far.    As a book reviewer,  I have long had a firm policy of not buying books.    It’s just so much easier to tell any author friends who ask that I just can’t ever under any circumstances buy,  and if they want me to review it they’ll have to send me a review copy.    The review copies,  which I have at times received from publishers, publicists and authors themselves have been a great perk for being a book reviewer.  (Though the fact is I don’t have all that much space and I regularly donate most of the review copies I’ve received to the friends of the library.)

Since getting my tablet I have downloaded scores of eBooks,  most all of them at the price point free.  As a reader,  I can’t help but be pleased.    I’ve known of course that authors who enroll their book in Amazon’s exclusive program pick I believe two free days for promoting their book.    I also noticed that Amazon has many out of copyright older books– which have been available through Project Gutenberg for some time,  in their listings.   Another thing I’ve found a lot of are series mystery novels,  where only the first in the series is offered free.   And I’ve been genuinely amazed at how many free books there are.   I have to say as a writer it frightens me a bit.   I’ve long felt that #indie writers were going to eat big publishing’s lunch,  because New York has been greedy and short-sighted about eBook pricing.   But if readers can get their fill for free,  why would anyone buy a book anymore?   It seems to me that authors need to re-think how much they are giving away.


30 comments on “Money For Nothing And The Books For Free

    • I see an opportunity here to become a trusted source to help readers find eBooks that are worth reading, even if they have to pay two dollars for them. (May be doing more with my books blog again in the near future.)

    • The fact is, Candance, most writers have always written for poverty level wages. Back in the old days, it was a fairly common experience for someone to spend years working on a book, more years selling it to a NY publisher, they get in print, the book doesn’t sell and six months later they are out of print. For every Steven King who got rich writing books, there are thousands of good writers who tired real hard and never earned a dime.

  1. I have many friends that are authors and send me free print books as well as Ebooks. I am appreciative and moving forward after I have read one of these give aways I usually purchase my friend’s books as support of their time and talent.

    As an artist myself I realize that one can “Just Give Away” only so much. People have to eat too 🙂

    I agree if an author requests a written review from you specifically then a advanced copy is in order.

  2. The exclusive programme allows books to be free for five days out of ninety; twenty per year.

    The upside to that is that I’ve had books go free for nearly a week without even telling anyone about it, and they hit the bestseller lists within minutes. Since then, there’s been something of a surge when people, having read whatever free book, tell friends about this thing trapped in their Kindles and the friends go off to find their own copies now that they’re no longer free.

    The downside is that are a bit unrealistic about exclusivity. A glance at the contract suggests that you’re agreeing not to make the same book available on the Nook or whatever, which isn’t a big deal since the Nook is far less popular than the Kindle. In practice, it turns out that will hold you responsible even in the event that someone retypes a KindleBook and uploads it online somewhere; a pirate making any percentage of your book available somehow becomes your fault, and have been known to withhold royalties for breach of contract.

    It could have been a good idea. But, personally, I’m just waiting for the life of the contract to end so I can let it expire; it’s not worth the risks inherent in the enforcement of the fine print.

    • I personally love Smashwords. You just upload a .doc file, they smash it into every possible eBook format and it’s sold in a hole bunch of different places (including Amazon, Nook, Kobo, etc)

  3. Free books are always a welcome treat; but then I feel sorry for the writers; popularity doesn’t bring in the cash; selling books does.

    • Hajra, as I remarked to Candace above, while a few superstars have made great money from successful books, writers have most always been poor by definition.

  4. I cant wait to get to afford a tablet so I can have my MASSIVE backlog of pdfs and ebooks to easily browse through. I am heavily for e-pubs and e-reading especially when the future and future of education is concerned. There are some books and authors I eventually and invariably always try to promote by either buying them in paper or trying to find special collections. the e-pub model is still young, but I have a feeling very soon there will be a happy medium between the author and the reader/fan of the work that will ensure a compensation of some sorts. There are still some books out there that you can have and view for free online, but good luck finding a real copy under 5000 dollars. I would love to have a few of them in my library one day.

    • Sia, I love my Android tablet that I bought for $97. It’s not really usable for audio, video or web browsing, but it is a great e-reader. With all of the hard physical costs of paper publishing removed, eBooks are a hugely promising revolution, perhaps as significant as Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. BUT if we reach a day where they are only available from Amazon and only readable on iPads….that is not going to be a win for writers or readers.

    • Scrapers are a bane of anyone who writes anything online. I don’t let myself spend too much time worrying about it, tracking it. But when I find I’ve been scraped I do send DMCA take down notices. And if they have Adsense, I do report them to Google.

  5. Candace said it right – it is almost impossible to make any money as a writer these days. Mind you, unless you write bestsellers (aka airport novels) it has always been hard to make money. I have had three books published since 1990, two of them by Oxford University Press, so by definition of minority interest. The royalties have been enough to pay for dinner in a restaurant, say, once a year. Luckily I am a kept woman, but otherwise I could not possibly have earned enough to live off.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, Laura. If anyone knows some great legal way to make good money from writing, I hope they will share it with me. I have made good money by writing, but my job title was always something else.

  6. Personally I would prefer to read books that are free (or paid when they provide a version without DRM/internet requirements while reading). For example if you buy a book you get a PDF file with the content for free, that would be a nice option.

    I’m mainly a reader. However I would also be happy to publish books for free online if the authors contact me. Money could be generated with advertising.

  7. From a business stand point free is good in small doses. the more hands you can put a book into the more people you have talking about it. If a writer is unknown it is very hard to get someone to fork over even a few pennies.

    What I would do is make the first chapter available gratis. Like a crack dealer. get them hooked.

    • That is the approach that James Patterson an his legions of co-authors (sometimes I wonder if writes anything at all himself) have taken. Most of his published books are on Amazon’s Kindle store. The first 15–20 chapters as a free sample. Not sure how much they charge for the rest of the book. No clue how well or poorly it is working in terms of sales.

  8. Free could be considered as a marketing strategy. Yet, author should review and adjust his strategy from time to time. Otherwise, everyone could get a free ride forever.

  9. I haven’t moved on to eBooks so I’m still a book buyer.

    Since you get your review books for free, do feel an obligation to avoid harsh, negative reviews?

    • Absolutely not, Liz. I make clear on my About page that all reviews are my honest opinion after spending significant time reading, examining and evaluating the work in question. Folks who have read me regularly over the years know that I definitely do give bad reviews if I don’t like the book.

  10. Pingback: So I Bought My First eBook | Libdrone's Thoughts and Musings

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