One book does not a reversal of policy make

I don’t share the optimism of Teleread and Kindle Nation, but it appears that Amazon has not entirely deserted free ebooks.

They do, however, remain committed to controlling virtually every aspect of the Kindle that they’ve leased you, which is not terribly consumer-friendly.

Still, at least it’s not as bad as it originally seemed.

Free ebooks back at Amazon- John Lutz Urge to Kill | TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home.

Free content doesn’t mean free everything

Over and over, when someone proposes giving away something for free in order to make more money on whatever else it is you’re selling, whether it’s the hard copy of your book, the tickets to your show, or anything else, some people see “free” and can’t understand that it doesn’t end there.  People get so mad that you’d suggest that everyone starve because “kids these days” don’t want to pay for music.

One of the comments on the really nice article linked below is one such person.

Eric: I have to say that this model saddens me.  Where’s the respect for the value of the artist’s labor when its given away free?  In over 25 years as a music writer for film/tv/theater, etc. I have many times been approached with some version of “We don’t have much budget on this one but do us a solid and there should be a good budget on the next….”  NEVER, has one of these ever come back with a decent paying gig and more than once people have come back with, “Oh, but last time you were able to do this for us.  How come?”

First of all, it’s clear the guy didn’t read the post. No one was suggesting you do the show for free.  The author of the article (Derek, not Eric) didn’t actually say to give anything away for free.  He just advocated making an appeal to fans to buy your cd. Pay what you want, even if it’s nothing, but walk out of the show with a copy of the cd.

The point is that, in his experience, the bands make more money this way.  This has nothing to do with giving away your work for some idealistic notion of good for society.  It has nothing to do with disrespecting creative works. The opposite, in fact – it’s all about compensating the creator in a way that allows him or her to continue creating, and treats fans like fans, not potential thieves.

You have to stop and think – is it better to make a living doing what you love, or to be compensated for each and every use of your work?

Article: Emphasize meaning over price = More paid sales | Derek Sivers via CwF RtB on Twitter

This wouldn’t be so bad if the Kindle were more open

Bad news for Kindle readers, especially the less computer-savvy.

But it is worth noting at this juncture that Amazon appears to have made a business decision, at least for now, that “free” will play an increasingly limited role in the Kindle Store

Amazon certainly has a right to shift focus and resources from free and public domain books to the books they’re trying to sell.  But it’s pretty disappointing.  For many people, unfortunately, the Kindle is the ebook reader.  It’s done wonders in showing the non-technical part of the population that ebooks and readers are out there.  But it’s these very same non-technical people who are likely to get all their reading material from the Kindle store, which is of course what Amazon wants.  They’ve put up all sorts of hoops to jump through if you want to put other content on the Kindle.

And so these non-technical people are effectively cut off from public domain books, or books from other publishers who can’t or won’t play ball with Amazon’s restrictions on the Kindle.

Also disappointing is that Amazon doesn’t want to deal with free promotional titles.

The number of free promotional titles has been dwindling since August, and no new free promotional titles have been added this month despite numerous publisher requests to offer free titles.

There is no question that free promotional titles can grow your fanbase.  Two of my favorite science fiction authors reeled me in with free ebooks (here and here).  I’ve since not only bought books from them, but pre-ordered a couple.  Again, Amazon certainly has a right to do what they’re doing.  I’d just rather they chose not to.

Fortunately, it keeps plenty of room in the ebook market and the ebook reader market for others to come in and fill the holes.

Article:  Kindle Nation Daily: Honey, They’re Shrinking “Free” in the Kindle Store via Teleread.

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Using free to sell more

My last post got linked with a very flattering writeup on Techdirt, which is pretty awesome.  The conversation in the comments, however, is a bit disappointing.  A lot of people still think that giving away the infinite goods means you give away everything.  They think that by giving away the content, you make it impossible to make any money on anything related to the content.

This is completely untrue.  There many differences between scarce and non-scarce goods.  The important one here is that the marginal cost (the cost to make one additional unit) of a scarce good is greater than zero, while the marginal cost of a non-scarce good is either zero, or close enough to zero to no longer matter.

Cheap or free goods have always been used to increase the value of more expensive goods.  For example, I worked at Boater’s World in Annapolis in high school.  One of my managers used to tell the young associates, “Whenever someone drinks a soda or a beer on the Chesapeake Bay, I want it to be in a Boater’s World can coozie“.  He gave them away all the time to good customers, or to someone making a large purchase.  The can coozies are cheap – Boater’s World charges 99 cents, so I imagine they cost something like 25 cents.  But sometimes a free coozie is just the thing someone needs to decide to buy that expensive new fishfinder.  And it’s always good to have things out there advertising the name of your business.

Of course, Boater’s World loses some money by giving the coozies away.  But in return, they have a sale on a larger item, and a satisfied customer, and marketing materials out where people can see them.  Even if you make the false assumption that every coozie you give away is a lost sale, meaning the marginal cost to the store is 99 cents rather than 25, it doesn’t take many large purchases by happy customers to recoup the losses.

But does giving away the coozies prevent all sales of anything else?  Of course not.  It also doesn’t force Boater’s World and all of its suppliers out of business.  And this is a situation where the marginal cost of the giveaway item is greater than zero, so the store does take a real loss when it gives them away.  Imagine how much better it would be for Boater’s World if the coozies cost them nothing to produce?