Culture

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
books, free, mid-market, obscurity, publishing



Publisher Experiments With 'Free' And Sees Book Sales Increase 20x

from the not-bad dept

We've pointed to numerous studies, at this point, that have all found that, when done right, free ebooks can greatly increase the sales of physical books (and, in some cases, even of ebooks). Here's another empirical example of that in action. Chris Anderson points us to a blog post by someone at a mid-list niche publisher, talking about how successful its experiments with "free" ebooks have been. In this case, the publisher would offer up the first book in a series as a free ebook, and found that it drove massive increases in sales:
One of our free titles was the #1 download on Amazon for the entire month of February. The subsequent sales of books 2 and 3 in the series increased by a rate of 20 to 1. For this series, digital sales are approaching 20% of the total product sales distribution and growing. With the visibility of the digital sales on Amazon, we have seen a substantial increase in print sales to the brick and mortar book chains. In this one instance, digital is driving print sales.
Basically, what this publisher realized is that with most books, obscurity is a greater threat than "piracy," and free helps deal with that:
Much of the talk by the big 6 publishers has been stress over cannibalization of print sales, or the idea of replacement sales, by ebooks. For midlist publishers such as ourselves, I believe we fight against substitution. We capture the "browser" market. If our title is not available or visible, a customer will simply substitute for another one in the genre. Free gave us the visibility that we could not purchase.

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  1. icon
    nasch (profile), 17 Mar 2010 @ 9:11am

    Re: personal experience

    IMO, that's hyperbole or at least non-repeatable with any certainty; it's one person's experience with a very specific audience and cannot be counted upon to work that way for everyone.

    Name any business scenario that isn't true of, let alone anything involving art (using the term broadly to include literature).

    Further, this line of thinking doesn't take into account that I can see whole series being pirated, which means they aren't pirating number 1 and buying 2-5. They are pirating them all. How does that increase sales? It doesn't. The pirates taking #1 and buying 2-5 are the exception...not the rule, in my experience.

    That may all be true, but the point is not that all or even most downloaders buy the books. The point is that some people are GOING TO get your books for free. Your choice is not whether to have free books available or not - they will be available. Your choice is whether to try to take advantage of that.

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