Free BooksIt all started with MP3 players and then of course the iPod. Free music, free music, free music until Apple and iTunes came along and at least settled the digital music market and returned it to some level of sanity. However, the ratio of free to paid songs residing on iPods still remained heavily on the side of free.

Now we have the iPhone and other smart phones, iPads and even e-readers such as Kindle that carry digital music. The screaming, yelling and court cases seem to have come to an end in the great digital music wars, but there are clearly lessons to be learned for the digital book, or ebook.

As with the free music bonanza of a few years ago, ebooks are now the new free digital offering. Whether it be out of copyright classics, author give aways or pirated copies available by bittorent, there is literally a never ending supply of free ebooks to be downloaded for an e-reading device. I have seen many a comment on social media about people being very pleased to have downloaded one hundred or more ebooks at a time. Well, this really makes me wonder.

If I downloaded one hundred songs, I would be able to listen to them all in a few hours. But one hundred books? Perhaps a year or two?

For some reason, free is an invitation to collect for the sake of collecting. But in the case of ebooks it makes no sense whatsoever. I can see from my own book sales statistics that the one free book I offer is downloaded thousands upon thousands of times, but I really wonder how many of these thousands of copies will ever be read. On the other hand, when I see sales of my paid books, I am pretty sure I have gained a readers of those books.

Then again, there is the argument that a free book offering is a way to attract new readers. I go along with this logic, however I think the percentage is quite low. Of the thousands of free copies downloaded, would I be right in thinking that I may have garnered a hundred or so new readers prepared to pay for one of my other books?

Free Ebooks – Do They Get Read?

18 thoughts on “Free Ebooks – Do They Get Read?

  • 11/10/2011 at 11:28 pm

    Ah, most of the free ebooks I have are in the public domain. I get a lot of free samples, but that’s to genuinely see whether or not I like the book. The only true freebie I’ve gotten so far was for my participation in a writing contest.

    I mean, don’t get me wrong, I haven’t read all the free ebooks I’ve collected so far, but that’s just because I haven’t had time. It takes a while to read Tolstoy…

    I will admit though, a lot of the freebies (and $0.99-ers) can be pretty awful. Of my many samples of ebooks, over half of them have ended up deleted…

    Honestly, though, I agree with you. A lot of the freebies probably end up in a dark dusty corner of the person’s hard drive, never to see the light of day.

    But I suppose if you are a writer just starting out, it’s still a good way to get your name out there, even if you only gain readers from about 20% of the downloads.

  • 12/10/2011 at 1:07 am

    I think, Derek, you had another astute post about visibility. It’s almost an impossible hunt to find find your own book without giving Google the title or authorship in the search. It’s tough to get read, free or not, when you and your work are invisible.

  • 14/10/2011 at 2:18 pm

    I do e-hoard free and sale books… and I end up reading most of them.

    I usually buy 2-4 e-books per week and read 1-3 books per week (including physical books and library books). How much I paid for a book seems to have no bearing on how quickly it gets read. A Simon Winchester book that I was dying to read and was rather expensive has been languishing in my hoard for over a year… while many impulse buys get read the day I buy them.

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