Monday, 19 November 2012

Do you collect free eBooks or read them?

There is a question doing the rounds in the writing world at the moment - do you collect free eBooks or read them? In other words, do you collect free eBooks because they are free or because you want to read them? I am sure that most readers fall somewhere in the middle - some they wanted to read and some they downloaded because they didn't cost anything. But how many of those falling into the second group were actually read?

Currently, I have 34 books on my Kindle. Of the 34, 19 were free. Most of the 19 were downloaded not just because I wanted to read them but because I was wanted to help the author push their eBook up the bestseller lists. I want to make it clear I would never download anything I had no intention of reading, but I will do everything I can to help promote a friend's book. I am also a real book reader at heart. Nothing beats the feel of a book in my hands. So, when I sit down to read at night, given a choice between a book or an eBook, I will usually choose the book. This probably explains why out of the 19 free eBooks, I have thus far only read ten. Some of those unread free eBooks have been on my Kindle for months.

As someone who is launching my first eBook collection in February 2013, I know this is an attitude I need to change. According to Amazon the sales of eBooks have tripled over the last year. They are here to stay, and I am sure there will come a time in the future when physical books will be a thing of the past, just like vinyl and cassette tapes are to my generation.

But if people really are collecting free eBooks and not necessarily reading them, what is the point of offering them for free? The obvious reason is marketing - pushing your eBooks into the top 100 bestsellers list guarantees they will be noticed. Hopefully, most of the people who download your book will read it. If it is good enough they will be more likely to buy your next book. Or, like myself, they will go out and buy the paperback versions, as I have done with Martin T. Ingham's Guns of Mars and Alex J. Cavanaugh's CassaStar.

Offering a free eBook, if only for a limited period, does offer benefits. You just have to hope those benefits outweigh offering your book for nothing. But that leads us onto whether offering your book for nothing or at a low price devalues your work, and that is a topic for a whole other post.

So, what are your thoughts on this? Have you read every free eBook you've downloaded? If not, why? How do you feel about authors offering their books for free? Have you offered your eBooks for free and how does it make you feel knowing they may not have all been read? As always, I'd love to know your thoughts on what I am sure is a controversial subject.


  1. I have both paid and free eBooks unread on my iPad. Just not enough time to keep up with them.
    My publisher has already stated they will never offer any book for free. I'll never know if it makes a difference. I guess my books haven't needed it anyway, which is a blessing.
    I don't download anything I don't intend to eventually read though.

  2. My ratio of unread to read books on my eReader is higher even than yours, but in my case, it's just a matter of finding enough time to read them. Whether the books are free or purchased, they still wait in a long line of TBR. I do love the feel of a book, but also love toting dozens or hundreds electronically, no bulk, no weight.

  3. If I download a free book, which I have several, my intention is to get them read eventually. My problem is that I usually have a long waiting list. It's like the buffet: the eyes are bigger than the stomach sometimes!

  4. I collect few of them (when my blog buddies ask me to download their books) and I also try to read them.

  5. I've eight downloaded. One because I was in it, but had already made my mind up not to buy, two to boost friends' sales, knowing (and then confirming) that it was not my genre, three I will read, eventually, and two I have read, one of which I paid for - but these were a series of interviews on crime writers.
    I won't download if I have absolutely no intention of trying.

  6. I make my books free from time to time - but I'm wary of it. Free attracts downloads but it obviously doesn't pay very well!

    As a reader, I try to read all I download but generally fail. Mind you, I also fail to read all the paper books I buy too...

  7. I think downloading free ebooks helps boost ranking and getting your book noticed is a big part of marketing, so whether or not the book gets read it's probably worth doing to support the writer.

    I'll occasionally grab an MG or YA free ebook from a writer I know, but I am not a child and I don't have kids so it won't get read.

    Moody Writing

  8. Hi Ellie - when I get that eReader .. I think I'll be downloading and supporting friends, so some I will read - others not ... I suspect I'll be like you - the feel of the book is good.

    I can see me reading novellas, or short stories via the eReader ... kind of like I do on the train - there's too much noise to concentrate properly - so I take things I need to look at ... if I need to inwardly digest them and it's noisy .. the pages get ripped out for reading later or keeping ... if someone picks up a magazine or newspaper I've been looking at on a journey .. they'll find lots of holes!

    I'll scan some of the MG and YA ones that I've bought I can see happening ..

    Cheers Hilary

  9. I don't read e-books at all, though I am supportive of writers who want to go that route. I personally still like holding an actual book in my hand and turning pages.

  10. I am ashamed to admit I only have free books on my Kindle, but I am reading them slowly, mostly in hospital/dentist waiting rooms and on long journeys. However, I did select only books I knew I would want to read and have worked through several already. (I have only had it a few months) The bulk of my reading is with real books that I own because I both want to read them and because as a part time book binder, I love a really well bound copy. There is nothing quite like it and no matter how you finish an e-reader, with leather covers or whatever, a real properly bound book is a real treasure.

  11. let me put it to you this way, i have books bought and paid for stacked in my house to be read in addition to the free & pd for unread ebooks...i am full of good intentions, but a slow reader with limited reading time =) i love to support my friends, free or not and hope to read them all some day!

  12. I only download a book if I intend to read it, but sometimes it takes a while to get to it. Currently I get them read within a month though. Getting the review written has become problematic. I've found if I don't sit and write it immediately I forget the good/bad things because I've already moved on to another book.

  13. I do download them and I'm working my way through them. I wish I could have my iPad read them to me. I'd get through a lot more of them while I'm doing other things. lol

  14. I've downloaded them. I can't resist free books. I'm reading through them very slowly though.

  15. I don't download ebooks because they are free; I download if I love the synopsis. Because of that, I have no unread books on my iPad and it is driving me nuts because I need a read on the commute!

    One thing that I found interesting as a writer was just how many people are now buying my Searching for Arthur after the recent free giveaway. I zoomed back up the rankings which I didn't think would happen, but it was pointed out to me that people who read the book for free will still recommend it, even if it is no longer free.

    So I think a free giveaway once in a while is a great promotional tool.

  16. I've downloaded a few books to help authors that I probably won't ever read. I don't download random free books though unless I do want to read it.

  17. I read the books I get (or try to), but honestly (and this is not to insult anyone) but I get offered free books on a daily basis without even having to log onto Amazon.

    My point is that despite my reading speed, there's already enough reading material for me to choose from to last the next three years of my life.

    The awful truth: There are more writers than there are readers. That's just a fact. But I don't think people should stop writing. By all means, keep churning it out. Just having one person read your work and liking it is enough of a compliment. I never expected to make money at this thing. And I've gotten a few compliments that put a smile on my face. So I'm happy :)

  18. I probably have more books that I paid for versus free on my Nook... mostly friends' books. I do read them. ebook is easier on my carpal tunnel, so I've come to prefer electronic books.

    I gave away the first book in my series. It continues to generate steady sales of the second. I don't think it devalues my work. It's people who would otherwise never read my work, reading it. And since it helped me gain a toehold, I consider it a workhorse, and that it provides a lot of value for me.

  19. I've got 24 free ebooks on my Kindle, all on my reading list, all ready for me, when I get time to read them, I suppose it could be seen as a collection, yet it doesn't feel like one and it's not like they look pretty on the bookshelves as a true collection would do....

  20. Hello, Ellie!

    Well, I have downloaded quite a few because they were free, and I was interested in reading them, but generally...I never get around to reading them. They are more a collection, and I find it sad. I like helping authors push their work into the bestsellers lists too, but at the same time, I've gotten to the point where I don't want to read something if it's a best selling free book -- just because, in my experience, most people will get it because it's free only, and a lot of the reviews are written based off the "free" mentality, not on the quality of the work itself (kind of like fan fiction).

    That being said, I have read some of the free ones previously, and they've been a mix -- more bad than good, unfortunately. I guess I'm becoming of the mentality that if they come into the top of the list because they're free, are they really that good? Or just -- well, free? What constitutes good literature, at this stage?

    I've tried using Amazon to promote my books with free copies. This has had both good and bad results. Yes, you get onto lists, and onto other people's recently bought or viewed pages. Yes, your books get taken (read? for me, not so much). And once, I had a small increase in sales after the free days, because the ebooks were on more of the recently bought/viewed pages. But overall, putting the books up for free hasn't helped me much, and I honestly would rather have someone pay for my work, because I think that they would appreciate it more. For me, as a reader, I appreciate an author's work more when I know that they're expecting something for it, because it shows that they give it value. If you spend so much time on it, shouldn't you want something in return?

    My best advice would be to try the free ebooks when the time comes, and see how they work for you. I've had some friends try this, and do really well, and some like me who haven't has as good a time with it. I think that the more books are free, the more people will buy and maybe read them, but the amount of (sorry to say) bad books that are up for free I think is making readers much more wary of free books, just as it's been making me. That, and I think a lot of people also get the "let's just wait until it's free, no need to actually pay for it" mentality from this, too, if they know that the author offers their books for free regularly.

    I guess the question that you really have to ask yourself is: what are you willing to give away?

    1. Another thought: I suppose that if you have a series, and you write a short story to go with it, then you may want to put it up as free. I can see this having a good impact, because then your readers would want to read the other books. But I wouldn't personally go any further than something short, quick, and to the point.

  21. love reading these responses!

    and i tagged you =)

  22. I download a few at a time and then read them. I have found quite a few good reads along with a few stinkers too.

  23. Oh, and thanks for signing up for the Alexfest!

  24. I collect a lot of free ebooks, but almost all of them are nonfiction centering on my other interests. I read some and scan others.

    Most ebooks (at least in nonfiction) are readable in chunks so I don't feel the need to read the whole thing. But yeah, if I hear about a free book about animals, history or homesteading, I pick them up. Of everything I've collected, only one author has compelled me to buy his other books in paper.

  25. I think people want to read them in the first place but because it is free, they collect as much as they can. As for me, I collect free ebooks so that I can read when I get free time. I am kind of a busy person, but I love to read so I make it a habit that I read one when I can.


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