The Phenomenon of Not Downloading Free Ebooks

Camy here!

So here’s a weird phenomenon. There were a bunch of free thriller books available on Kindle but I’m not a huge fan of secular thriller because many of them tend to get a little more gristly than I like. I looked at the book blurbs, but they were mostly serial killer type of thrillers, which do tend to get bloody.

So I actually chose NOT to download free ebooks! I can’t believe it!

But it also got me to thinking. These days there are so many free ebooks that people can start to pick and choose which free ebooks to download.

Isn’t that a strange thing? Before, I’d be snatching up almost any free ebook available because, well, it’s free.

Now, I’m like, “Thrillers, eh. I read them but not my favorite genre. I’ll pass.”

I probably should have had this mentality for some of the other free ebooks I downloaded in the past, because I wouldn’t have so many ebooks that I probably won’t ever read.

Then again, they don’t take up space in my house because the ebook files are stored on my Amazon digital bookshelf or my Barnes and Noble Nook shelf, not on my computer. So I suppose it doesn’t matter if I download books I’ll never read since I don’t have to store the files.

I wonder, does this glut of free ebooks defeat the marketing purpose of a free ebook? I’m sure it works sometimes–a reader will pick up a free ebook from an author he/she hasn’t read before, and suddenly the reader is a new fan of the author.

But with so many free ebooks these days, does it make it less likely that reader will get around to reading the author’s book since there are so many other free (and paid) ebooks the reader has gotten?

So would I utilize free ebooks as a marketing tool? I’m not sure. Maybe. I might offer a novella for free if it was the first of a series. Or I might offer a full-length ebook for a really cheap price, like $0.50. The reason is because I’m wondering if the people who would pay those few cents for my ebook would be more likely to read it than those who got it for free.

What do you think?

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is the first book in her new series, Protection for Hire, which is a cross between Stephanie Plum and The Joy Luck Club. She is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she ponders frivolous things like knitting, running, dogs, and Asiana. Visit her website to sign up for her quarterly newsletter.

Click here to find out how you can join my Street Team—it’s free and there’s lots of chances to win prizes!


About Camy Tang/Camille Elliot

Camy writes romantic suspense as Camy Tang and Regency romance as USA Today bestselling author Camille Elliot. She is a staff worker for her church youth group and leads one of the Sunday worship teams. Visit her websites at and to read free short stories and subscribe to her quarterly newsletter.
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11 Responses to The Phenomenon of Not Downloading Free Ebooks

  1. jelowder says:

    I think it’s wise to not download a book just because it’s free. It goes along with the adage of “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” I’m also discovering that just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s well-written. In fact, I’ve only been plugging along for 6 months as an indie and I’m amazed at the junk that’s out there. AMAZED!

    Per the marketing/sales thing, I’ll confess that this morning I’m feeling overwhelmed. Aside from the market being saturated with authors and free e-books, there seems to be countless methods and models to use (in order to increase one’s platform and sales.) At times, I feel like a lemming or the proverbial chicken with his head cut off.

    In regards to free e-books, I still think there’s the concept of perceived value, so for now, I won’t give mine away (except for promotion and reviews.) However, I’m about to do a sales campaign to see if that increases sales and awareness.

    I’d love to hear how others are doing with hitting this “moving target” called marketing.


  2. I’ve started doing that too…NOT downloading a book just because I can.
    Now I do if a: I can use it for book research b: it’s a new author I’d like to try or c: The “back cover” hook grabs me.

    My mysteries (full-length) are on Smashwords and Amazon for 99 cents, and I’m going to keep them there. I think it’s an inexpensive way to try my books. I could raise the price, but I think I’ll stay where I am for the moment….Hmm…that’s another post: So how much is a digital copy really worth? 🙂


  3. I hope Lynette doesn’t hate me, but I pass over anything published by Smashwords or any other self-publisher. I don’t even bother looking at the author’s name, title, picture…nothing. I simply scroll right past. I suppose, if I knew a particular author had published with Smashwords and I was sufficiently motivated, I might go looking for them, but otherwise…

    I also don’t download anything I don’t think I will actually read whether it’s free or not. I have a stack of books by my bed making me feel guilty enough, I don’t need another stack inside my Reader screaming for attention, too.


    • Thanks for letting me know, Becca. What happened with my book series is that I received the rights back from my publisher, so my literary agency helped a number of us release our books independently. They’ve been fully edited, plus there’s a sample on the site as well. Of course, ordering through Amazon helps too.. 🙂 They were initially released in paperback form, so we just took them and went digital…


  4. Amazon e-mails me each day on free books. At first I downloaded 3 – 4 a day. Now I’m down to one or two a week. As mentioned above so much of it is dreck that wasn’t ready to be published and I don’t have time to wade through it to find the diamonds.

    Yes, I think offering free books worked a few years ago, but it’s power is waning quickly.


  5. PatriciaW says:

    Before, free ebooks were a novelty. Now, not so. Before, not knowing when or if the next freebie was coming, there was a greater tendency to download. Now, not so much. I’ve always been choosy, though, based on my reading preferences, whether the author or book was familiar to me, and whether something about the book (cover, blurb) caught my eye. Now, I’m being even more choosy because I’ll never read all the ebooks I’ve downloaded unless I stop writing and stop reading other books for the next couple of years.


  6. jelowder, I like the chicken with its head cut off visual. I totally feel like that.

    Lynette, that’s a good point, it’s an inexpensive way for people to try your books.

    Becca, nowadays I’ll sometimes look an author’s name up on to see if the author has been published traditionally in print books. If the author has, then I know the freebie is probably a book where the author got the rights back. However, I don’t think most readers actually do that or know about authors getting rights back.

    Jim, I feel the same way, I don’t have time to read all these different books to find the few that are actually good books.

    Patricia, I think I got caught up in the whole “free” thing because I used to download almost anything. Nowdays, not so much.


  7. Lisa Harris says:

    I too used to download anything free I thought I might read. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that there were so many books and, of course, so little time, that I was only reading ones that I’d paid for or books that I might have downloaded for free but had planned to buy anyway. So I’ve definitely changed how I look at the whole free book issue. I still watch for free books, but unless I know I’ll read it–meaning I’ve heard of the author, read the reviews, and believe it will be an excellent read–I typically don’t even bother.

    I think it can be a good marketing tool to introduce a series, or as a promo to reach more people, but only for a short time.


  8. I still download anything free that I *think* i might read because I think I have so much more time for reading than I actually do! I think I’m hopeless.


  9. Sarah Goebel says:

    Camy, I am no expert but I would guess James is right and the power of free ebooks may be waning. However, I personally do not download one unless I plan to read it.


  10. You have more self-control than I do! I was seriously tempted to download another thriller today! Sigh. I think I’m pathetic.


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