On social networking this morning, with some virtual friends, we discussed free books. As I’ve pondered this topic today, the question comes to mind: Are free books a good thing?
I’ve had some interesting experience with giving away books. When I solicit a reviewer (a necessary process for the new author), I offer to send my books. To me, if they were doing unpaid work, why would I expect them to purchase my books? Ah, but alas, what if the reviewer suspects I’m giving them by books in hopes to score a more favorable review? Fortunately, a reviewer never stated to me in correspondence this kind of suspicion, and several reviewers thanked me for sending my books, or respectfully declined for whatever reason. At least they didn’t accept books they weren’t interested in reading. (Also, many reviewers are understandably overwhelmed with books).
Another experience with free books is when I offered them to friends that expressed interest. I’ve been told more than once “No, if it’s free, I probably won’t read it.” What? Really? Do people read more books they purchase than they are given?
To answer this question, I looked at my own book collection. Having a habit of reading what I want, when I want, when someone gives me a free printed book, I get around to reading it some time. With my ebook obsession, even when people email me free books, I tend to download them amazon/smashwords to one of my portable e-readers. I admit, sometimes I’m guilty as well, preferring to purchase books mainly for the format for my devices, not only out of convenience, but I since I post reviews, the author at least gets a sale even if choose not to post a review.
In analysis of the above sentence, here comes a troubling question: So I purchase a book, post a review, does that author “owe me?” Answer: Not from my standpoint. I’ve written before that some authors aren’t willing to go the distance and purchase the books of other authors. Does that mean they lack integrity? Answer: Not from my standpoint. I’ve written before that more solid virtual friendships are built by the good will of purchasing and reviewing one another’s books, but that isn’t a fit for everyone
New authors, we’re not in a position to make demands to potential readers. For the traditionally published authors, at least they have a company behind their work, but on the other hand, they’re at the mercy of it. As Indie writers, our judgment is our own with promotional experts out there to advise us.
Free books? I may make a choice to buy books for an alternative format, but writing/promoting is time and energy consuming enough to not have concern with the motivations of other writers offering to give me their work that cost them great labor, and costs nothing to me. The least anyone can do when you’re given something in good faith is to say “Thank you.” The work of writers has value; sometimes financially, sometimes virtual, and most of the time, their work adds to the human experience of reading.