What Do You Call a Bestseller You Don't Actually Sell? A Kindle E-Book
Take a look at the price tags on Kindle’s top-selling e-books, and you’ll see plenty of zeros. As part of a strategy to get readers interested in the work of particular authors, publishing houses have gotten in the habit of giving away older titles. They’re hoping readers will like the old titles so much they’ll fork over some cash for the authors’ new releases. But is it working?
Well, yeah, a little. Clearly, the giveaways are driving consumers to download copies of books from authors without the big-name recognition of a Stephenie Meyer or a John Grisham. According to a New York Times article last January, the model does seem to successfully nudge consumers toward purchasing more titles from authors they discover through complimentary e-books.
Still, it’s hard not to draw comparisons between Kindle’s freebies and the free online content that’s helped dig print media into such a deep financial hole. As Brian Murray, chief executive of HarperCollins said, “Free is not a business model.” A recent posting from the Los Angeles Times points out that, though the complimentary promotional books may boost sales of their authors’ other works, they hardly bump those for-pay titles to bestseller status. In fact, publishers are lucky if books they charge for break into the top 1,000.
So is it the work of particular authors that keeps Kindle readers coming back for more, or the promise of more free entertainment as new books are given away? The answer to that question is a key to whether Kindle and other e-book services will remain viable businesses, but with journalism outlets seeking to regain profits by reinstating subscription fees online and in conjunction with Apple’s iPad, it seems the sun is setting on the idea that giving away loads of content free of charge up front is a good way to get customers to pay for your product later.
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