Free ebooks, the Race to Zero?

The act of giving is such a wonderful thing, but could it have some devastating effects?

Most people want to get everything they can get for the least amount of money. It is a natural thing, and you can’t change that. But what happens when you give something away, and you offer it to everyone?

Let’s say a new fast food place opens up in town. You haven’t heard of it before, but they have free coffee. So you go and get your free coffee. That’s all you get, because, hey, it’s free! It’s not a bad cup, but not the best either. You go there every morning and get yours. Months go by, and the coffee gets a little better, but it still isn’t the best. Then one day you show up and they tell you the coffee will cost you two bucks.
You say, “Why? It’s always been free.”
They don’t want to tell you they lured you in with the word ‘free’ hoping to get you hooked on their coffee.
You realize what’s going on and say, “Your coffee isn’t any better than that new place down the street. They are offering theirs for free now.”
You jump ship and start going somewhere else for your free cup of Joe.

Are some authors doing this very thing? It seems they are hoping to lure readers to them by offering free ebooks, in the hopes that they can charge for their other works at a later date. If we all adopt this pattern, then there will always be someone offering free ebooks. If your work doesn’t really stand out, then most people will be willing to drive down the street and say, “I just heard another author is offering a similar ebook for free.”

Your knowledge and your skill as a writer are the most important things you have. It is your product for sale. If you give your skill away, then you have effectively reduced the value of your product to zero.

Most people want to spend the least they can. If you have shown them that your product is worth nothing, then they will not want to spend anything on it. This is especially true if there is a similar product on the market for free.

I would love to hear your opinions.

Categories: Uncategorized, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Free ebooks, the Race to Zero?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Free ebooks, the Race to Zero? « Babb's Blog --

  2. andrea gehrke

    How true and at the same time sad is your commentary. One motto stands out in my mind and that’s “don’t sell yourself short”. Labor has a value to it, and writing is no different.

  3. K.T.

    I agree. Why give it away?
    You have some very good points.

  4. If you’re writing fiction, I think you definitely don’t give that away. Or you do like me and give people the occasional snippet you cut out of your book to whet their appetite.

    When it comes to non-fiction, I think you can use the power of blogging or something like Squidoo to help you, rather than hurt you. Write articles with some good information in them and that are related to your book (but not copies of stuff in your book), and then link to your book and promote it like crazy (okay, not like crazy; within reason). If people like the style of your articles, and the content–if they feel that you know what you’re talking about and they like the way you say it–then they will pay money to buy your book. And then, once they’ve read the book, they will appreciate the additional tidbits that you throw their way for free via the same online medium.

  5. ohh goood! you are sooo right! Let’s think about Joker’s great line: “If you’re GOOD at something, don’t do it for FREE!” and he was so right. Like you are now.

    As reader, I look at the cover and title of the book before buying as step one. Step two is looking at price and then reading the first page. But the thing is, if a book is good, I would pay for her, because two books written without skills, that are just ordinary… together will never sum like One Great Book.

  6. Pingback: Free ebooks, the Race to Zero? (via Babb’s Blog) « The Sex Thing

  7. I agree that some people will always go down the street for the next free thing that pops up.

    However, readers are willing to pay for good writing. If you have a strong, distinctive style and you’re trying to build readership, I see nothing wrong with offering “free samples” by way of short fiction.

    Writing is hard work and we should never sell ourselves short, but the competition is stiff out there. Readers want to know that you’re worth investing in and giving them a little something up front is a good way to do that.

  8. A few of you have mentioned, “free samples.”
    I think that giving a taste of your work for free isn’t a bad thing.
    Maybe if they love the sample, the customer will want more and understand that all of your work isn’t free. Just the sample.
    Kind of reminds me of going to Walmart or Sams and having the little ladies begging me to try a smoked sausage or something. LOL

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