08:10 – I thought this would happen, but not this quickly. There are now so many free books being released for Kindle that I don’t have time even to scan the titles. Some days, Amazon releases literally hundreds of new free titles.
As a result, my standards for downloading a free ebook have tightened significantly. It used to be that “this looks like it might be interesting” was sufficient. Now, I pass up books like that by the score, not even bothering to visit their Amazon pages to get more details. In the last couple months, I think I’ve actually paid for only two ebooks, one a $3.99 title that Barbara wanted and another a $2.99 Joe Konrath title that was actually on sale that day for $0.99.
Most authors seem to loathe and fear the proliferation of free ebooks, seeing it as a “race to the bottom”. Even two or three months ago, an author could get noticed with a $0.99 or free title, but that’s no longer true. When thousands of ebooks are cheap or free, just being cheap or free doesn’t buy any exposure.
But I still think low ebook prices are a good thing for authors, at least those who have backlists and are realistic about pricing. I have books from literally scores of new-to-me authors queued up for my Kindle. If I read one of those and like it, I’m going to want more from that author. If I visit Amazon and find that author has a dozen other titles in that series available, all priced in the $0.99 to $2.99 range and without DRM, I’m going to buy all of them in one go. I’ll probably give a copy of the first title to one or several of my Kindle-owning friends who have reading tastes similar to my own, which will probably generate a bunch of additional sales for that author.
But if that author has made the mistake of overpricing his or her other titles, or of putting DRM on them, that chain is broken. If the other titles are priced much above $2.99 or have DRM, I’ll simply abandon that author and move on. It’s not like I don’t have many others to choose from.
Authors need to understand the economic concept of residual value. Print books have residual value. I can sell them back to a used bookstore or trade them two-for-one. I can donate them to the library. That’s why I keep saying that the natural value of an ebook is half the price of a used paperback. When you “buy” an ebook, all you’re paying for is the right to read the story. Even $2.99 is a pretty high price for that. I’ll pay that much because that’s the minimum price upon which Amazon pays the author the 70% royalty instead of 35%. But most readers don’t know that and wouldn’t care if they did. What they do know is how much a used paperback costs, and they will be resistant to paying much more than half the price of a used paperback for an ebook. Particularly when there are so many free ebooks available.
10:45 – I just shipped what I suspect will be the final chemistry kit that’ll arrive in time to go under the tree. I suppose it’s possible for one shipped tomorrow or even Friday to arrive in time for Christmas if it’s shipped to an address near us, but I sure wouldn’t bet on one shipped tomorrow, let alone Friday. The USPS is just as covered up right now as UPS and FedEx. I’m expecting them to take one more day on average than normal. The one I just shipped went to one of the Maryland suburbs of DC, and I told the buyer to expect it Friday.