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The Commercial Benefits of Providing Free Ebooks


The rationale for making FREEDOM freely available is provided on the book’s website:


While ‘FREEDOM’ is available for purchase in
bookstores, due to its world-saving importance it is also
being made FREELY AVAILABLE online at


So you can judge for yourself right away!


There is also growing evidence amongst authors and publishers that making Ebooks freely available acts to generate interest, and results in increased hardcopy sales.


The following are examples of authors giving away free Ebooks, leading to increased sales of hardcopies:


1. Andy Weir (author)


An example of free access creating a groundswell of interest that lead to it becoming a bestseller in hardcover sales (and ultimately, a movie adaptation).


‘The Martian is the first published novel by American novelist Andy Weir. It was originally self-published in 2012 before Crown purchased the rights and re-published it in 2014. Having been rebuffed by literary agents, Weir put the book online for free at his website. At the request of fans he made a Amazon Kindle version available through Amazon.com at 99 cents (the minimum he could set the price). The Kindle edition rose to the top of Amazon’s list of best-selling science-fiction titles where it sold 35,000 copies in three months. This garnered the attention of publishers: Podium Publishing, an audiobook publisher, signed for the audiobook rights in January, 2013, and Weir sold the print rights to Crown in March 2013 for six figures. The book debuted on the New York Times Best Seller list on March 2, 2014 in the hardcover fiction category at twelfth position.(http://en.wikipedia.org/​wiki/​The_Martian_(Andy_Weir))

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2. Paulo Coehlo (author)


Best-selling author of The Alchemist.


Q. You’ve also had success distributing your work free. You’re famous for posting pirated version of your books online, a very unorthodox move for an author.


A. I saw the first pirated edition of one of my books, so I said I’m going to post it online. There was a difficult moment in Russia; they didn’t have much paper. I put this first copy online and I sold, in the first year, 10,000 copies there. And in the second year it jumped to 100,000 copies. So I said, “It is working.” Then I started putting other books online, knowing that if people read a little bit and they like it, they are going to buy the book. My sales were growing and growing, and one day I was at a high-tech conference, and I made it public.’



3. Cory Doctorow (author)


The New York Times best-selling science fiction writer Cory Doctorow allows the public to read his books freely both on his website, or by downloading free Ebooks. His publishers (Tor in the US, and HarperCollins in the UK) only publish the hardcopies.


‘The commercial question is the one that comes up most often: how can you give away free ebooks and still make money?...[the answer is that]…ebooks sell print books. Every writer I’ve heard of who’s tried giving away ebooks to promote paper books has come back to do it again. That's the commercial case for doing free ebooks’


4. Neil Gaiman


Neil Gaiman ran the experiment of placing American Gods on his website for free and saw how it impacted positively on hardcopy sales, of all his books.


‘The results of putting AMERICAN GODS up here for free that month came in in August. Sales of my titles -- all my titles -- in Independent Bookshops went up significantly while we had American Gods up here for free. We sold more copies of American Gods. And we sold more copies of everything else. And then, when we took AMERICAN GODS down, they dropped again, to pre-free book levels.

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5. Hugh Howey, John Dumas and Danny Iny (authors)


An October 2013 Huffington Post article called Why Successful Authors Are Giving Their Books Away for Free outlines the case for free access leading to increased hardcopy sales.


‘Hugh Howey, John Dumas and Danny Iny all have one thing in common. The bestselling author, top-ranking podcaster and profitable entrepreneur have a habit of giving their books away for free…Many authors who hesitate to offer free books maintain the assumption that free books lead to a net loss in sales. Those who have experimented with the option often find the opposite to be the case: many times, free ebooks actually boost sales of print copies.’


‘“I [Hugh Howey] err toward the side of cheap,” he wrote. “I want readers more than I want profits. The latter follows the former.” His prolific publishing and widely-available books helped to spawn a very large following online -- one that grew to be so attractive to publishers that Hugh was able to sign a neigh-unprecedented publishing deal with Simon & Schuster in which he retained full rights to ebook sales. Most authors understand that free books can boost readership, but widespread readership does more than build a flattering fan base. Publishers look for traction when considering authors; a robust online audience is one of the most important things an author must have if he or she seeks to sign a favorable deal with a mainstream publishing house.’


‘John Dumas shared with me that, thanks in part to free giveaways (and generally keeping its price very low), his book became one of Amazon's top-selling podcasting guides. John attributes much of this success to the number of good reviews his book has received (specifically, over 140 five star reviews on Amazon), many of which were probably given by those who received the book for free. As good rankings (which are highly influenced by reviews) can make or break a book on Amazon, authors stand to gain a great deal by finding legitimate means by which they can foster favorable feedback from readers.’


‘Danny Iny, who has written several books on marketing, shared with me that many who download his ebooks ultimately choose to buy his print books -- presumably because they enjoy what they have read of a free ebook so far and would prefer to have a print copy.’

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6. Seth Godin (author)


The online marketing pioneer Seth Godin explains why giving away his books as Ebooks generates viral buzz and hardcopy sales.


‘Why would he do this when the hardcover edition costs $12.99? Because he’s building buzzand based on his current sales rank on Amazon, it’s working. I learned about Godin’s campaign this morning on Twitter. Giving something away for just a buck feels like a bargain, so people are talking about it and it’s going viral online. And since not everyone has a Kindle, there is no doubt that the campaign is also generating sales of the hardcover edition. It also gives the book a great head start. It hasn’t even been released yet, but all these pre-sales will have readers dialed-in and ready to talk about the book immediately.’



The following are examples of publishers allowing free access to texts to complement traditional hardcopy sales.


1. Bloomsbury Academic


Bloomsbury claim to be pioneers in allowing free access to academic texts through their website, while still offering hardcopies for sale:


the intention is for titles in the imprint to be available for free online for non-commercial use, with revenue to be generated from the hard copies that will be printed via print-on-demand and short-run printing technologies’
(Alison Flood, ‘New Bloomsbury science series to be available free online’, The Guardian, 13 May 2009)

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2. Open Book Publishers


Open Book Publishers is an academic publisher that is allowing free access to their texts:


‘At Open Book Publishers we are changing the nature of the traditional academic book. Our books are published in hardback, paperback, pdf and ebook editions, but they also include a free online edition that can be read via our website, or embedded anywhere [put on any website]


3. Nature Publishing Group


Nature Publishing Group (NPG) allows authors to publish articles simultaneously in Nature magazine and on their own websites:

‘In 2002, NPG was one of the first publishers to allow authors to post their contributions on their personal websites, by requesting an exclusive licence to publish, rather than requiring authors to transfer copyright’

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