Free ebooks appear to boost sales

Vernor Vinge made his book ‘Rainbow’s End’ free to read onlineTor author (and sometimes Futurismic blogger) Tobias Buckell has an interesting post talking about the effects of authors giving away their novels. There has been a lot of criticism of the practice by some writers and lots of praise from other corners. But with Neil Gaiman adding his superb bestseller ‘American Gods’ to the list of books you can legally download for free, are people shooting themselves in the foot or will this bring more income in the future through increased readership?

At the moment, it looks like the practice works. Two of John Scalzi’s books are up 20% and 33% in sales since the first one was released as a free ebook by Tor. As Charles Stross has mentioned, the fact that current ebooks are as much as a few hundred grams of chopped down tree, chemical treatment, ink printing, shiny cover embossing, a few thousand miles of transportation, part of the salaries of manufacturers, printers, truck drivers and shop assistants that make up the price of a typical physical book is simply insane. And that’s not even including the price of an ebook reader like the Kindle monstrosity. So until someone comes up with a £50 reader that gives you digital books for £3, £2 of which goes to the author, ebooks aren’t a business model. But they do provide clever authors with the chance to increase their reader base. What do you guys think? Would you purchase a book after you’ve been impressed by the free ebook version?

[image is the cover of Vernor Vinge’s novel ‘Rainbow’s End’, which you can find for free online here.]

8 thoughts on “Free ebooks appear to boost sales”

  1. I know it’s opened my eyes to considering some authors I wouldn’t have otherwise looked at. It seems there are thousands of people writing sci-fi, and it’s hard to know who is worth reading. If I have a chance to read it online, I can get a feel for their writing. As well, the electronic version isn’t nearly as nice as a paperback.

  2. I really need to get an ebook reader. Sitting around reading on a computer is killing my eyes. Not to mention hard to carry around.

  3. I bought Rainbow’s End in paperback after reading most of it online. I also wouldn’t have ‘discovered’ Peter Watts otherwise–now I’m a fan 🙂

    But reading on screen hurts my eyes. An ebook reader would have to be just as easy on my eyes as a paperback, equally as light and with a very long battery life before I’d consider buying one. All that and for less than 50 quid too…

  4. I think Peter Watts has mentioned a jump in sales too.

    I read the whole Rifters trilogy, or whatever it is, on my (very old) laptop, so I guess reading from a screen is not a problem for me. But it’d be *really* nice if/when we can get XO (OLPC) type screens in our portables…

  5. I freely downloaded Charles Stross’ book Accelerando. Since then between myself and friends we’ve bought all his books.

    Sony’s eBook Reader is by far the best gadget I gotten since my first computer 20+ years ago. I’ve been using it constantly for 1+ year. Yeah, its not without flaws and it’d be a far more usable if Apple had released it but its still great.

    My house is cluttered with books but since getting the Reader try and buy ebooks. My biggest gripe is that not ever author is available in digital format but that is quickly changing.

    BTW from what I seen of the Kindle it seems horrendously badly designed for reading.

  6. I don’t think I could read a whole novel on a computer, but I’ve read Tobias Buckell’s free 1/3 that he offers and bought both of them. I don’t know that I would buy a book if it were offered free online, though I’d definitely be more likely to remember their name and buy their other books.

  7. I think the use of the internet to broadcast stories and written media goes beyond just the transmissal of Books via an ebook or other format, or as a tool to increase the sales of books in stores. Online is also a great way to get into science fiction and fantasy from writers, like myself, who are choosing to bypass the publishers entirely in lieu of more creative freedom in our work. Though we tend to write in serial format, the web novel is building some serious momentum.

    If you want to check out a new cornerstone for serialized web novels online, Alexandra Erin, author of the web novel Tales of Mu, has set up a free site called Pages Unbound. Both of my serial novels are posted there, as are hundreds of others from other writers in various genres, not just scifi and fantasy.

    I think the publishers worry more than the writers, honestly, about their profit margins, when it comes to ‘giving’ things away online.

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