Is Free A Price We Can Pay?

This is something I’ve wondered ever since I began downloading Kindle books in early 2010.

As a reader, I think, “Yes!” In 2 years, I’ve downloaded close to 3,000 books and paid for less than 50. Some of these I’d seen in B&N and thought about reading, but not enough to buy. Then publishers started dropping the prices on Amazon to $0.00 for a few days for promotions. I snapped up many this way.

In May of 2011, they allowed short stories into the free book listing and I discovered KND. My downloaded number skyrocketed. Then, in December 2011, Amazon allowed self-pubbed books into their KDP Select program and the numbers went to the moon. I don’t download every book (I try to maintain some standards) and I’m sure a few of the self-pubbed works will not be worth finishing. That’s not to say all self-pubbed books are likely to be terrible, but tons of editing errors do get in the way of my enjoyment of a book. (Emphasis on the word “tons”.)

It should be noted that I am cheap frugal. I do own quite a few paper books, but I would not own nearly this many ebooks if I’d had to pay for them all. And it’s doubtful that I would have actually read through them from the library (even the ones that are available there).

As an author, I cringe.

Chuck Wendig over at did an experiment with one of his ebooks on the Amazon KDP Select program. 5200 of his books went out the door for free during that promotion. I don’t know how that relates to his actual sales numbers, but that’s huge. And I do agree with his assessment that not everyone of those 5200 will actually read his book. Much less leave a review.

Whether or not this is a good idea will also depend on your definition of success as an author.


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