The slow pile-up of Kindle book offers + free story

First, for your Kindle, a short story -

All these offers and the recent increase in the number of $1 and $2 kindle book deals creates a unique problem.

How can a kindle book offer stand out?

There are just too many offers. Despite writing almost daily posts on Kindle book deals there are still an abundance of book offers left over -

  1. After yesterday’s post on 28 children’s books for 88 cents each (including Curious George) there are now another 20 or so offers at 88 cents each (including a couple of Junie B. Jones books).
  2. Brenda Jackson is offering 5 Romance Novels for 81 cents each. These are all books rated 4 stars or 4.5 stars. The link takes you to one and then the ‘Customers who Bought this Item Also Bought’ section right below the book cover has 2 more 81 cent books. Alternatively, you could click on her name to bring up all her books and sort by Price: Low to High.
  3. There are also 80 cent romance novels from Sandra Edwards and Lori Foster.
  4. Almost every Publisher is using the trick of getting free publicity for an author’s new release by offering a previous book by the author for $1 or $2.
  5. Publishers are also using free books and free prequels and stories (like the one above) to generate interest in new book releases.
  6. More and more indie authors are moving to the $1 price point.
  7. A lot of backlist books are coming in at $3.

There are so many free offers and deals that you need an offer to generate interest in the offer.

We’ve moved from ‘How to get attention in a crowded market’ to ‘How to get attention in a market crowded with free offers and $1 book deals’.

$1 Book Deals are no longer getting much attention

There was a time (most of 2008 and 2009) when a $1 book got a ton of attention. Orbit Books used to have a $1 Book of the Month special and Amazon would feature it and lots of people would buy it.

Imagine that – Having a $1 book offer was enough to get attention.

Now, even with a $1 or $2 book deal from a bestselling author, it’s hard to get attention. Just in this week alone we’ve had 5 or more bestselling authors offer books for $1.99. Not a single one of them got a ‘Special Feature’ by Amazon. When people mention it on the forum the offer quickly gets buried by newer offers – sometimes within 15 minutes.

A $1/$2 offer is slowly losing its power.

Fighting for Attention despite a $1 Book Deal is just the Beginning

It’s going to get worse.

Currently we have 50 to 100 free book offers a month. At least those get lots of attention from everyone and lots of downloads. If we go back to 2008, we had 3 to 5 free book offers a month.

What happens when we have 10 to 20 offers a day and 400 offers a month?

Then free book offers will become the equivalent of what $1 book deals have become now. Before you can check the 5 most recent free book offers there will be another 5. Halfway through that list there’ll be another 5.

Where do we go after free?

First, it became tough for a book to stand out in the Kindle Store. Now, it’s becoming tough for a $1 book deal to stand out. Soon, it’ll become tough for a free book offer to stand out.

What do authors do after that?

The ability to use free books as free marketing is going to vanish. Free book offers are only valuable when there is a limited supply. These days, every single author wants to use a $1 book deal or a free book offer to promote her/his new novel. That means the number of offers keep increasing and readers are well on their way to becoming indifferent to offers.

Instead of a treat it’ll become an expectation.

We’re already beginning to see this in the way readers react to free book offers – There’s no longer that ‘once in a month’ special feeling. Users get 10 offers on Monday and then 11 on Tuesday – more offers in 2 days than they probably got in all of 2008. It’s just not that special any more.

Kindle Store authors are about to lose their two main free marketing options – Book Deals and Free Book Offers. Then, horror of horrors, they’ll have to spend actual money on marketing their books.

Perhaps even more fascinating is wondering what will happen as this trend continues and competition for readers gets tougher and tougher. Authors have no idea how challenging things are going to be for them and readers have no idea how good things will be for people who read books.

The sustainability problem – eBooks and Free

We are seeing three trends that are making free an important threat to the future of books -

  1. The availability of literally millions of free public domain books.
  2. Independent Authors giving away free books to get recognition and build credibility and sell books down the line.
  3. Publishers offering free books to create sales of other books by the author – usually later books in a series of which the free book is the first.

There are lots of ways to justify all of these – it’s marketing, public domain books should be free, it gets more people to read, and so forth.

Unfortunately we have to deal with reality and not what people think will happen.

Free is just a means to an End and it’s not working as planned

Free Books are just marketing -

  1. eReader companies want to offer a million free books to get sales. 
  2. Authors want to offer a book free to hook readers and get them to buy more.

However, it’s changing user perception of the value of books.

Free is overwhelming Paid Books and training users to expect Free

Except for the Kindle Store, every single eBook Store has way more free books than paid books. Plus you have indie authors all over the Internet offering free books.

  1. If only 20% of books are paid people begin to wonder. 
  2. If Oliver Twist is free how do you justify charging $10 for a new book?
  3. Users are getting trained to expect free books – it’s going to be ridiculously difficult to change their behavior and get them to start paying for books.  
  4. Authors might be offering just one or two of their books for free – However, every author is doing it.

While free eBooks are doing a great job of devaluing books, and teaching people to expect free books, they are not guaranteed to work the way they were intended.

Free Books are not guaranteed to lead to Paid Book Sales

The Internet is this great medium that takes greedy people and destroys them.

Everyone is rushing to give away free books and lock in a huge future revenue stream. Well, they’re just killing that future revenue stream.  

The Freemium model doesn’t really work. Especially not online where customers have a lot of leverage. 

It sounds picture perfect -

  1. Offer part of your product offering for free.
  2. Get millions of people to try it.
  3. All of them start buying your other products.

However, all it does is train millions of people to get stuff for free. They then turn around and use some other company’s free offering.

Freemium would work if there wasn’t infinite competition online or if every company was intelligent. That’s not the case.

Giving away Free Content/Product is not a business

It’s not just me – the pointlessness of serving people who don’t pay you for the hope of Future profits is obvious to anyone who thinks about it for 5 minutes.

  1. Broadstuff points out that ‘if you aren’t paying, you aren’t a customer’.
  2. Philip Wainwright at ZDNet weighs in. 
  3. Here’s a full PDF study on how Freemium isn’t working for Software as a Service companies.

This is exactly what newspapers did – they were serving people who weren’t their customers. This is what Authors and Publishers and eBook Retailers are beginning to do.

Free eBooks are a means to THE END

What free eBooks are actually doing is leading to the end of books. We are at the beginning of the end of books.

  1. To market books authors and publishers and eReader companies are giving away books.
  2. To make money middle-men are busy finding ways to convince authors and publishers to embrace free based models.
  3. Public domain books are already available. Orphan Works might be available soon.
  4. Users are beginning to figure out that they might be able to get away without paying for books.

You see this in various forms – users asking for $2 ebooks, people removing DRM and sharing, users who want to share eBooks like they share paper books, and other signs.

The Bleak Future for Books

You get two basepoints -

  1. 0 cents for a book over the Internet. 
  2. 10 cents for a book delivered wirelessly to your eReader.

You also get a lot of ethereal things people will be told to be happy with -

  1. Authors with recognition and getting readers. 
  2. Publishers with being gatekeepers. 
  3. eReader companies with selling eReaders. 
  4. Advertisers (if any) with running advertisements.

Why are we moving towards this future?

Out of Competition and Due to Greed companies and authors are setting unrealistic expectations for readers

Company A and Company B are competing for eReader sales.

  1. Company A has the lead and the arguably better eReader.
  2. Company B counters by offering a million free books.
  3. What it really does is decrease the possibility that either company can create a viable eBook revenue stream down the line.

Author A and Author B are competing for readers.

  1. Author A takes a viewpoint that users will really like.
  2. He says readers should get books without DRM and for free and authors should be happy to just be read.
  3. This leads to a lot of recognition and users buy his book out of reciprocation.
  4. However, he is devaluing books. Not as many people buy books and they pick him not because his work is the best.

It’s easy to assume it’s all altruistic – However, there are elements of competition and greed underlying the whole ‘I want to sacrifice myself for you’ angle.

Users, though, believe what they hear and add on things from their own wish-list  -

  1. Information wants to be free. 
  2. eBooks should be half the price and still shareable. 
  3. There should be no DRM of any sort.
  4. Authors should be happy to get donations.
  5. We should be able to read books and then decide what to pay for them.

And lots of other ridiculous things they would never agree to for their own line of work.

The Internet is a great place to try and fool everyone at the same time. It’s an even better place to get fooled by everyone.

44 of Top 50 Kindle Bestsellers are $0

Here’s your free kindle book of the day (reckon Amazon wants to keep Kindle owners coming back every day during shopping season) -

  •  Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda. Reprint of the Original 1946 edition. Its rated 4.5 stars across 75 customer reviews.

    free kindle spiritual book

    Autobiography of a Yogi

This and the deals below are courtesy MobileRead.

There are also some great priced Kindle Books by top-notch authors -

  1. Johnny and the Dead by Terry Pratchett for just $1.86. 4.5 stars across 17 customer reviews.  
  2. M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman for $3.99. 3.5 stars across 21 reviews.
  3. Interworld by Neil Gaiman for $3.99. 4 stars across 36 customer reviews.
  4. Regression by Kathy Bell for $1. 4.5 stars across 7 customer reviews.

Anyways, the free new book offers and the added public domain titles have resulted in Free becoming stronger than ever.

Just how strong is the presence of Free in the Bestseller lists?

Well,

  • Just 6 of the Top 50 bestsellers are not free books.  
  • Just 23 of the Top 100 bestsellers are not free books. 

Here’s a video to clearly demonstrate that there are only 6 paid books in the top 50 –

At some point Amazon is going to have to end this mockery of the definition of a bestsellers list.

Free is taking over completely

Amazon didn’t want to create a separate list because people would gravitate towards that. Now, they have no choice. The main list has turned into a Free List.

It doesn’t help that Amazon have to add public domain titles to match other eReaders and their Google Books. That means lots and lots of great public domain books added – and all are free.

Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson, Count of Monte Cristo, all the Jane Austen novels that were missing, and so forth.

Amazon had left out the best books by every author and now they’ve been forced to add them and that means public domain books have taken off in a big way.

Value Perception of eBooks is going to Zero

There’s always someone who’ll say there were always big name authors selling their ebooks for $1.87 or giving away their first book of the series free.

Well, there weren’t. It’s been nearly two years and -

  • The number of free titles offered has gone from 4-5 in a month to 15-20.
  • The number of big time authors offering $2 and $3 books has gone from just a few to quite a few.
  • Number of Free Books in the Top 100 bestsellers list has gone from 20% to the current 77%.

Google have managed to start eroding Amazon’s revenue stream. When 77% of your bestsellers are books for which users pay nothing and you pay bandwidth, you’ve got to be a bit upset.

The International Versions Shenanigans

Running into lots of interesting little mistakes -

  1. Two different prices for The Blind Side and then you find the lower price is for outside the US.
  2. Two different covers for Too Big To Fail and then you find the better cover is non-US.
  3. Books that you can’t buy in the US.

Best way to make everyone unhappy.

Kindle owners outside the US are unhappy because they can’t buy US Kindle Books and now US Kindle Owners are unhappy because some countries have lower prices and books that the US doesn’t get.

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