Friend of the blog Jo Eberhardt raised an interesting question on Monday: Should eBooks be Available For Free? As a soon to be self-published author, and a voracious reader I thought it would be fun to tackle this question from both perspectives.
Today I am a reader, tomorrow a writer (well hopefully both).
You Read What You Pay For
Amazon just released a software update for the Touch (details of which I might cover next week). One downside of the update is the Kindle requires 30 minutes to index each book for a search function I will never use. This indexing drains the battery, and so I did a little preemptive weeding to get the device down to the 50 magazines and 150 or so books I’m actually referring to at the moment.
What did I decide to keep? The stuff I paid money for.
I went through a ravenous free book phase when I first got both the Fire and the Touch. Not just public domain stuff, but the best of sites like HundredZeroes and anything that was toward the top of the free 100 on Amazon’s site. Probably 70-80% of the 600 or so Amazon books I own were free. Before the battery draining indexing there was really no cost to “one more book” on the Kindle. With a 3.21 gigabyte drive my Kindle can hold thousands of books, and a book only needed to look vaguely interesting to be roped into my personal cloud.
But aside from books for a couple 5% of five posts, I haven’t read any of it.
I mainly read right before bed, or in the head
For starters money’s not the only factor in deciding what books to read (if not which to buy). At the end of the day word of mouth, recommendations from friends, and known taste satisfiers are what I make time for. This is not to say I don’t make time for new authors (my recent devouring of Scalzi books is just one piece of evidence), but “owning” their book isn’t enough. I have to actually remember it.
And I tend to remember what I go to the trouble of buying.
But it isn’t just a sense of guilt or trying to get bang for my buck. Ultimately my being willing to spend money on a book in the first place is a fairly sure sign that I intend to read it (though right now I’m buying Stanislaw Lem’s whenever they are the Kindle Daily deal just because). Like it or not price does send a conscious or sub-conscious signal that the book is worth something.
I like free samples (especially of Sushi)
Maybe a free book is too much. If I don’t know an author, I want to have a bite-sized way of deciding I like them before diving into a 400 page tome that might have needed some more revisions (don’t worry I’ll be guilty of that too). While not free, Scalzi’s “Human Division” gave me a 99 cent way of deciding if I liked an author a lot of people like me seemed to enjoy. Blogs are great for that too, and over the past year or so I have been forced to begrudgingly admit that short stories can have as much to offer as a novel (and sometimes are even more fun to write). They also can tell a lot about an author. Setting a scene or making a point in 600 words or less is tough, but the best get us to crave more.
How do you choose what to read? How many free books have you actually read?