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Books for not free

I am disheartened by the number of people who give away their books for free.  The idea behind giving away the book is that, if people love the book, they will be willing to buy the next book the author writes.  I believe that this is a wrongheaded approach.

I realize that on the short term this practice may offer a desirable result of more people reading the book.  However, I believe, this practice damages the whole industry.  Other than in the world of art, this behaviour is unheard of.  Has anyone seen another competitive business where people make a habit of giving away a product or a service for free?  I have not seen any dentist repair teeth for free just because there are a lot of them around.  I have never seen clothing stores hand out summer dresses for free because the business is competitive.  I have never received coffees for free because there is a coffee shop around every corner in the city.  So, why is it acceptable to hand out brand-new artwork for free?

In addition, the market strategy of giving brand new books away for free does not really work.  Why?  Imagine a clothing store having a rack where the clothes are always free.  Where do you think people go first when they enter the clothing store?  You guessed it!  They will flock to the fee rack.  Surely, they love a designer dress that is freely given away.  But, imagine that the next time they enter the store, the designer wants money for a similar good-looking dress!  What happens then?  Do you think they will get their wallets out?  Remember, the free rack is still in the store!  Of course, they will not want to pay.  They just pick another designer whose dress happens to be free that day.  The problem is timing.  If every designer in the store decided to stop putting free clothes on the rack, the customers would have to get their wallets out.  Remembering the dress’ designer that came to them for free the previous time, they would look for the same designer and pay for the dress.  But, this strategy works only if there are no other designers giving away free dresses at the time!

In the book selling world, there are always free books available.  In the Indie world, people are putting their brand new books up for free by the hundreds every day.  This means that there is no shortage of free books.  And, why pay for it when you can get one for free?  Hence, I believe that the outrageous practice of giving away books for free damages the industry and devalues the authors’ hard work.

I honestly think that it is better to sell fewer copies of a book than devalue a work.  Authors work hard.  Writing a book takes anywhere between months and years of hard work depending on the subject material.  It is not an easy thing to do and people should not expect this hard work to come for free.  Dental works do not come for free.  Designer clothes do not come for free.  Coffees do not come for free.  Why should brand new books come for free?

M. J. Mandoki

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