Baen Books is a venerable publisher of science fiction and fantasy … and they give away ebooks, full ebooks, no DRM, and lots of ‘em, dozens. This is the Baen Free Library, and it is an inspired, daring and shrewd business move. They’ve been doing it for ages now, since the predawn of ebooks, long before the Kindle was a twinkle in Amazon’s eye.
People struggle to understand this, misinterpreting it as mere a PR stunt, and even Baen’s own explanation falls flat. The library’s chief evangelist, author Eric Flint, wrote a long-ish essay which serves as the library’s front page, but all the wordage fails to get across the simple, elegant power of giving away ebooks. I can say it in one three words:
Huge free samples!
That’s it. That’s all. These books are just unusually generous loss leaders, and it’s bloody brilliant. It means I can get a really good taste of an author or a series. If I like the flavour, do you think I’m not going to want to buy more? Of course I will. Duh!
Case in point: the first free book I grabbed was An Oblique Approach, by David Drake and Eric Flint. I basically picked it at random. Turns out it’s excellent. When I am done, I will eagerly buy something else by either of those authors. See how this works? So simple.
This is, of course, exactly why I publish so much free content on PainScience.com. If I want people to buy my ebooks, they have to get to know me first!
Baen understands its customers. Once we know that we like an author, the huge majority of fans will buy anything by that author that we can get our hands on. It’s a no-brainer.