Onward, Christian freebies

Onward, Christian freebies 

Lately, there have been a preponderance of faith-based publishers in the freebie selection in the Kindle store. 

This is happening so often that there have been several threads started about it in the Amazon Kindle community. 

There are two main factors behind this: it is both a step up by faith-based publishers, and a step-down by non-faith-based publishers. 

I regularly put out Freebie Flashes, which list newly free titles, so I have a pretty good subjective sense of this. 

I did want to take a look at the actual numbers, though, to see what was happening. 

 There are 59 freebies in the Kindle store right now which are neither public domain (books not under copyright protection) nor part of Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel competition. 

You can see those 


When I define a publisher here as faith-based, it’s because I’ve been to their website…and that’s what they say (or Christian, or similar words).  Faith-based, by the way, doesn’t automatically mean Christian, but it commonly does for e-book publishers. 

When I analyzed the books I came up with 41 from known faith-based publishers, 18 from other publishers.  When in doubt, I left it as non-faith-based.  I counted Steeple Hill, from Harlequin, as faith-based.  It is an imprint of Harlequin, a romance publisher, but this is “…specifically for modern and savvy women of faith”. 

Kindle freebies by publisher


So, that makes it pretty clear.  Right now, the majority of freebies in the Kindle store are from faith-based publishers. 

Was that always true? 

Nope.  I’ve checked it before.  We used to have quite a few science fiction titles…Random House provided a number of them.  We still have science fiction/fantasy titles in the freebies.  We also have a number of romances…that’s been true for a while as well. 

Here’s a breakdown on the publishers/imprints:

Publisher/Imprint FB? Count
Harlequin No 7
HarperCollins No 7
MIT Press No 6
Zondervan Yes 6
Steeple Hill Yes 4
Silhouette No 3
Disney No 2
LucasBooks No 2
Mira No 2
The White House No 2
Amazon No 1
Archaia Studios Press No 1
B&H Yes 1
Bell Bridge No 1
Bethany House Yes 1
Crossway Yes 1
David C. Cook Yes 1
Del Rey No 1
Harvard Common Press No 1
Kimani No 1
Lawrence Crane No 1
Luna No 1
Mobilereference No 1
Revell No 1
RiverOak No 1
Samhain No 1
The Friday Project No 1
The Lyons No 1

Some of them are imprints of the others.  

Del Rey and LucasBooks are both part of Random House. 

Mira, Steeple Hill, Kimani, Luna, and Silhouette are all part of Harlequin. 

Right now, if you don’t want to read faith-based books, and you don’t want to read anything from a romance publisher, and you don’t want to read public domain books, you don’t have a lot of choices in the Kindle store.  You certainly have some, but not that many. 

Before I get a bit into speculating on the “why” of it, let me suggest that you might want to try some of them anyway.  Up to you, of course, but I’ve generally found something valuable in anything I’ve read.  🙂  When I was a bookstore manager, I read something from literally every section in the store, and included my employees to do the same.   I asked my customers for suggestions, and they had some good ones.  Yes, the romance I read was worth my time.  Yes, the “Men’s Adventure” book I read had one of the best plot twists I’ve read in anything.  I don’t generally select romances to read, but I went on to read that entire series (it was The Survivalist by Jerry Ahern) in Men’s Adventure. 

Oh, I’m not going to tell you that you’ll feel every book was worth it.  🙂  I’m reminded of Sturgeon’s Law.  Someone once said to the famed science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon that “90% of science fiction is trash.”  He responded with, “90% of everything is trash.”  Note that the original word may not have been “trash”.  😉 

If you don’t want to try any, that’s fine of course.  You could always read public domain books (those are my favorites), get free books from other sources, or, you know, pay for books.  😉 

Why do faith-based publishers give their books away? 

Certainly, some of their reasons may be the same as any other publishers.  They may be seeking to inspire sales of other books.  They follow that same pattern, of releasing the first book in an established series for free.  The desire may simply be to have people read the first book for free, and then go on to purchase the other books. 

However, that doesn’t differentiate the faith-based publishers.  There are several faith-based publishers making e-books available free: not so many of other kinds.  Why? 

Well, it may be as simple as wanting to “spread the word”.  It may be the hope of the publishers that they can reinforce the belief of the believers, and reach out to people who might be undecided.  The Gideons put Bibles into hotel rooms.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t charge you for The Watchtower when they come to your door.  I’ve been given a religious book by “Hare Krishnas” at an airport.  

Not all religions actively seek new members, but many do. 

Does that mean that the purpose of faith-based books is to “indoctrinate” people?  I know some people think it is “sneaky”…I’ve seen reviews where readers felt “ambushed” when a religious element was entered into what had been a seemingly mainstream (or genre) novel. 

Well, I will say this: the publishers don’t hide who they are.  True, you won’t always see a big cross on the cover, like an R rating at a movie.  But it will say who the publisher is somewhere on the book, and often identify the book in some way as faith-based. 

They want to find the people who want those materials, who see it as a plus.  

Why are fewer other publishers giving books away? 

That’s an interesting question!  One hypothesis is that it might be connected to the agency model and the contracts some of the big publishers have recently signed with Apple and Amazon.  After all, rumor has it that those contracts say they can’t sell the book lower anywhere else.  Maybe they don’t want the books to be free everywhere, so they don’t make them free anywhere? 

There’s an obvious refutation to that.  HarperCollins is one of the “Agency 5”.  Their books at Amazon are being sold under the agency model.  If you look at their free books, you’ll see that it says, “This price was set by the publisher.”  


I was checking so I could blithely say that the price was the same everywhere…free, that means.  I checked 

The Scent of Shadows by Vicki Pettersson 

It’s free in the Kindle store, $6.99 at Barnes & Noble. 

That suggests that B&N hasn’t signed the agency model (yet) with HarperCollins.  That makes sense.  While you can’t buy Penguin books published since March 31 2010 at the Kindle store (due to agency negotiations), you can’t get this book free at B&N.  

It’s also $7.34 at Sony (Sony is often higher at this point).  I presume this means the agency model isn’t in place there either.   Hmmm…could publishers charge different prices in different ebookstores under the agency model?  The former retailers couldn’t change the prices, but Macy’s doesn’t have to charge the same price for the same product in all of its stores.  New York stores, for example, pay higher rent than, say, Kansas stores.  Higher prices might reflect that. 

It’s also possible that the agency model is still rolling out to all the stores as the contracts come due. 

Could the agency publishers be “punishing” the public by withdrawing free books?  I don’t think that’s likely at all!  If it makes economic sense to give away some books, I still think they’ll do it.  One could argue that allowing text-to-speech doesn’t cost anything, and some publishers have blocked that access.  I don’t think that’s equivalent, though.  They say they are blocking text-to-speech partially to protect audiobook sales.  That’s possible.  They may also want to eventually charge for text-to-speech.  However, free books are calculated to sell more books.  Text-to-speech would sell more books as well, I’m sure, but I can still see publishers giving away some books while blocking text-to-speech. 

An important point: HarperCollins is giving away books…and they are not blocking text-to-speech, to my knowledge.  

Is that a combination?  Block text-to-speech, don’t do free books?  Too soon to draw that conclusion. 

Overall, we can say that most of the free books in the Kindle store are faith-based.  Many of the others are romance.  The Del Rey and Random House books are from a publisher blocking text-to-speech…but that is not one of the agency publishers.  

This may all change going forward…we’re riding the maelstrom right now. 

Tip of the day: if a book is published under the agency model, Amazon says “This price was set by the publisher” on the book’s product page. 

 This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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