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. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2010 @ 2:23am

    Free makes even more sense for books, the ones who aren't willing to buy your books are those who browse through their library for new books to find and would buy your book anyway.

    Paying money for an ebook makes no sense to me because I can go to the library and get a free book and read it, Ebooks just make that process even simpler, so I read more and see more books in general.

    If I like a book, then I have to have my personal copy of of the dead tree edition, simple as that. I have multiple ultra special leather bound books that are all in the public domain (Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, and so forth) despite all the advantages that a good ebook provides (text search, electronic bookmarks, etc...) because I like the books a lot. I have bought multiple copies of series I love to give to friends and to look nice on my shelf. (My idea of decorating is lining the walls with nice bookcases to fit all the books)

    So I spend a lot of money on books, but would I pay money for an electronic copy when I could just go to the library and check it out for free? No way.

    Making your ebook available for free means people like me are more likely to find it, read it, and then buy the dead tree edition and go to author events.

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