How long will anyone pay for books?

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© Tatyana Chernyak |

How long will anyone pay for books? This may seem like an odd topic, but it’s certainly one of concern to writers and ultimately, it affects readers too. I know there are a lot of writers who are thrilled to have their e-books downloaded thousands of times, even if they give them away. The hope is that one day those readers will turn into paying customers. Have you noticed how many times it’s one book in a series that’s free? Is that tactic working? What about the free for a day books? Do the readers tell others who buy later?

Ebook readers be honest. When was the last time you paid for an ebook? Do you remember the authors of the series and search out other books, if it’s already available, or remember to watch for an ebook that’s not on the market yet? If you do, you may be a very unusual reader. I know many people who subscribe to every source they can find, all offering more free books than they can read. These people aren’t complaining about the quality either. Of course, there are some duds, but there are more good stories. At first, I didn’t believe it could be true. There couldn’t be that many free books worth reading.

I made it a mission to find free ebook newsletters and lists. My husband signed up for them too because he has different taste in books, and I wanted to another opinion. After a few months, we both have enough books to read for at least a year, and that’s with being selective and not taking anything with bad reviews or of no interest. As a result, I’ve had no reason to pay for anything that wasn’t necessary for business or school. On the other hand, a week after I’ve read a book, I have no idea what I’ve read. I can read and discard them like potato chips. That doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying the book or deeply involved in the story at the time.

My husband gets his books on his Kindle app for his android phone. Lately, I’ve been teasing him that he’s like a kid addicted to a game or text messaging. He’s constantly got his phone out reading whenever he has to sit for two minutes. He hurries to finish yard work to get back to his latest book too. When I said that I shut off a couple of the newsletters because I had more books than I could read, he looked horrified. He’s still getting books because all he has to do is put the books he’s read back up in the cloud.

That brings us back to the original question. How long will anyone pay for books? How can author’s afford to keep writing? How long? Sure, we still have rich famous authors that sell hardcover books. Textbooks and special topics will take a long time to be widely available for free too, but I’ve already picked up several business books, cookbooks, and non-fiction books—all free. Is writing doomed to be a “hobby” in the sense that there will be very few ways for most authors to make money in the future?

I write and many of my readers write. Most of us also read voraciously. What do you non-writers think? If you are a writer, what are your plans? Will the avalanche of freebies end when the electronic media become the norm for everyone?



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