Monday 24 September 2018

What if ALL ebooks were available for FREE... ?

By Narelle Atkins @NarelleAtkins

A decade ago... 

I don’t know if many of us could have envisaged how much the introduction of ebooks and independent publishing would radically change the publishing landscape.

In 2010 I was buying print books from bricks and mortar stores, and online from Christian Book Distributors, Amazon, and The Book Depository. I borrowed print books from the library that I couldn’t afford to buy. I was gifted print and PDF advance reader copies (ARC’s) to write reviews on Amazon and blogs. I entered blog contests to win print books.

Fast forward to 2018

It’s now possible to have more ebooks in our online accounts than we have time to read in our lifetime. We can purchase a monthly subscription to Kindle Unlimited or other online libraries to access millions of titles. Plus we can listen to audiobooks that can be purchased or borrowed online.

Yet even with all these cheap and free ebooks, some readers still download free books from pirate sites.

Book Piracy is theft and steals income from authors

Book piracy is rampant. It’s a problem that we, as a society, can’t seem to eradicate or effectively police. The underlying problem is the willingness of readers to risk downloading viruses and malware from illegal sites offering pirated ebooks rather than paying to buy or borrow an ebook from a legitimate site.

Some readers even abuse authors when they can't download books for free.

While there is a demand for pirated books by readers, there will continue to be people motivated to steal and supply the stolen intellectual property.

Piracy is theft. It is illegal. It is stealing in the same way that walking out of a store wearing a pair of shoes you haven’t paid for is stealing.

It is not a ‘harmless activity’ to secretly download and read stolen intellectual property from pirated sites.

Everyone in the publishing and book selling industry is negatively impacted by the unauthorised distribution of stolen intellectual property. 

There are negative financial consequences that directly impact author earnings.

Kara Isaac has written an insightful post on the Seekerville blog that clearly outlines how book piracy hurts authors and damages their ability to earn income from book sales.

Some might argue that the people who download pirated ebooks were unlikely to be your paying customers.

Joanna Penn has written a post on this topic. 

There is merit to this argument and it underpins the crisis that is looming for all creatives.

Others say piracy does hurt them, and it hurts readers as well.

If an early book in a series doesn't make enough paid sales, the publisher might decide there is no demand and cut the print run of future books ... or not publish them at all.

Maggie Stiefvater has shared her story and explained how piracy has hurt her book sales.

Why are many people no longer prepared to pay to read literature or listen to music or watch films?

The scary truth is that there is a growing section of our society who hold the fundamental belief that they should be able to read all literature for free.

Public libraries have always provided access to books, which is a good thing, but there were and still are reasonable limitations on an individual’s access to library books.

I continue to ponder why a reader may be prepared to pay $5 for a cup of coffee, but not be prepared to pay $5 to purchase an ebook? Would this reader have been prepared to pay $15 a decade ago to purchase a print book at a store in the mall?

I recently saw an ad from a book newsletter provider with a headline along the lines of ‘never pay for an ebook again’.

Bloggers, including Kristen Lamb, have written multiple articles that examine why ‘writing for free for exposure’ is usually a bad idea.

If the current trend continues, where will we end up in ten years? What will the publishing world look like in 2028?

What if readers stop buying books?

What if they stop paying for Kindle Unlimited and other ebook library subscriptions?

Is there anything we can do to stop the gradual devaluation of literature in our society?

I’m a strong believer that publishers and authors teach their customers how to buy their books. Readers like consistency in pricing and don’t like feeling ripped off. Strong branding and high quality writing can conquer many obstacles and contribute to building a loyal readership.

Romance author Bella Andre takes this approach. She doesn't offer the first book in her series free, or offer special launch prices. She believes in cultivating readers who are prepared to pay full price ($5.99) for her ebooks, and discounting to $2.99 or $1.99 only when she gets an advertising spot that will introduce her to new readers.

The message that isn’t being heard is simple. Authors deserve to be paid in the same way that doctors and teachers and bus drivers and restaurant staff deserve to be paid for the work they undertake. This is a biblical principle: the labourer is worthy of his (or her) hire (e.g. Luke 10:7 and 1 Timothy 5:18).

Authors, and those in the publishing industry who produce and sell books, deserve to be paid for the work involved in publishing and selling books.

It’s not reasonable for our society to expect writers and other creatives to work for free.

It’s time for us to stand up and say enough is enough. Stand up against exploitation and the attitude that it’s okay for people to steal our intellectual property.

If you value literature, put your money where your mouth is and spend some of your hard earned cash on purchasing books and/or writing library subscriptions that generate income for authors.

If you’re an Aussie, borrowing books from our public libraries provides public lending rights income for local authors.

Authors and publishers, don’t give away every single ebook you publish for free. Research how ‘loss leaders’ work, and learn the success strategies that underpin how offering a free book can funnel sales to your other books.

Teach readers to buy your books rather than wait patiently for all of your books to become available for free.

Writers, value your intellectual property and don’t be flattered into ‘writing for free’ to benefit someone else’s website SEO or advertising revenue. Find opportunities where you’re paid according to the quality of your actual writing. Generate affiliate income on your own site rather than allowing someone else to exploit your ‘free writing’ on their site.

Above all, have the courage to believe that your writing is valuable and worthy and deserving of payment.

A fun loving Aussie girl at heart, NARELLE ATKINS was born and raised on the beautiful northern beaches in Sydney, Australia. She has settled in Canberra with her husband and children. A lifelong romance reader, she found the perfect genre to write when she discovered inspirational romance. Narelle's contemporary stories of faith and romance are set in Australia.

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