Why are you paying for e-books?

Why are you paying for e-books?

Seriously.

That may sound like a rhetorical question, but if you are paying for e-books, you are doing it by choice.

Project Gutenberg has approximately 38,000 free e-books available in the USA.

Let’s say you read three books a week…the Project Gutenberg books alone will last you more than 243 years.

Believe me, the availability of free e-books is concerning some publishers and authors.

The question becomes very serious: when you do pay money for e-books, why do you do it?

I’m going to give you some hypotheses, and I’m going to let you tell me (and the world) why you pay for e-books…if you do.

First, let’s establish what we mean by “paying for” the e-book.

I only want you to count that you are paying for a book if you pay money for that specific book. If you pay for the ability to get the books for no additional cost, don’t count it as paying for it.

For example, if you pay property taxes in your town which go in part to fund your public library and then you get e-books from your public library with no additional cost, don’t count it as paying for it.

If you get books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, don’t count the $79 a year you pay to be a Prime member as paying for the book.

If someone else buys the books on the account to which your device is registered, don’t count it as paying for it. Even if you kick money in once a month with a gift certificate into a general pool for the account, don’t count it as paying for it.

Why not?

What I’m hoping to do in this post is give authors and publishers some insight into what makes you pay for a specific book…not for books in general. What is it that gets you to say, “I’ll pay ninety-nine cents…or $2.99 or $9.99 or more,” for this particular book.

Authors and publishers can use that. They can’t do much to encourage you to pay an annual fee for Prime in hopes that you’ll use it to borrow one of their books.

Okay, before we get into my idea on why you might do it, let’s get some idea of how often you choose to pay. I’m going to ask this as two different questions: how often do you pay for the books you get for your Kindle, and how often do you pay for the books you read on your Kindle.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if people are far more likely to read the books for which they’ve paid than the free ones. I’d guess that’s the case with me, although I’ve never really measured it.

Here’s the getting poll:

Here’s the reading poll:

Now, let’s take a look at some possible reasons you’ll lay out that hard-earned cash (or, um, gift certificate).

That new e-book smell

No question, people like “new”. Some want to read a book before anybody else does. They are willing to pay a premium for that (for example, they might have bought the hardback rather than waiting for the paperback for that reason). If I think that something is complex and that I might hear about a surprising element before I read it/see it, I want to do that right away. I don’t want to hear about something on the news or from a friend before I’ve discovered it myself.  This can be especially true with non-fiction: the value of it might be less later as the situation changes in the future. This is also where I’d count the “next book in the series”.

Other people are reading it now

The book may not be new, but maybe people in your social group are reading it. You want to participate in the conversation, so you don’t want to wait, even though you could get it free or cheaper. Social media might impact that this one…getting a tweet on a book might encourage a purchase.

You are giving it as a gift 

Many people want to give something that has monetary value when they give a gift. They may even have a budget in mind.  Even if a free book might be as good as a ten dollar book, giving the free one might seem…inappropriate. If it’s a free book, you could just tell the person about it. The recipient might be less likely to get it if it isn’t free…which increases the novelty of the gift. I’ve done this: I’ve bought an e-book for a family member as a gift when I wouldn’t have bought that same book for myself…even though I would have liked it.

You want to support the author

I think this impacts quite a few purchases. I know people sometimes shopped in my bookstore because they liked me (and my staff). I’m sure people subscribe to this blog through the Kindle store just to support me (even though they might be reading it through a different channel), and I do really appreciate that. Extending this, you might also be supporting a cause or some other entity. I may buy a book on a topic I consider worthwhile to help support that cause in the market.

You think it costs less now than it will later

If there is something that you think you might want and that won’t ever be free (or at least, not for a long time), you might buy it because it is on sale. That’s how the Kindle Daily Deal  works for me sometimes. If a ten dollar book is on sale for ninety-nine cents, I might buy it…even though I probably would have never bought it at tend dollars. I know that’s just psychological, it’s not really al logical way to make a decision.

I think those are five of the big drivers, and I’m going to poll you on those:

I’m sure there are other reasons, and I’d be interested to hear them by having you comment on this post.

So…why are you paying for e-books?

Update: thanks to reader Arni Vidar for catching an error, which has now been corrected!

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

40 Responses to “Why are you paying for e-books?”

  1. Emily Says:

    Someone might buy an ebook if they are already a fan of a series of books and a new one comes out. That situation is about the only one in which I will pay more than a buck or two for a book. (After I’ve checked to see if I can borrow a digital copy from the library or KOLL.)

  2. Crystal Davis Says:

    Generally I pay for ebooks once I’ve already decided I like the author’s work. This week, for example, I finally read “A Bad Spell in Yurt” by C. Dale Brittain… then bought the next four in the series. And ordered the final book in the series in print (which just about killed me) because it’s not available as an ebook!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Crystal!

      That’s interesting, thanks!

      In the future, if you want to wait for a book to be Kindleized, you can list it at

      http://www.ereaderiq.com

      They’ll send you an e-mail when it is published. I’m not connected with that site except as a user, although we’ve had some correspondence.

  3. Arni Vidar Says:

    Well Bufo, first of all you give five possible reasons for buying books, but only include four of them in your poll and “I think those are four of the big drivers…” seems to indicate you simply forgot you wrote up five in the first place.
    Since the option you left out is the one I would have chosen, I can’t partake in the poll 🙂

    Now, as for why I pay for books, it is fairly simple. There are three reasons:

    1.) I buy books by authors I love and who still write good books, often at stupidly high, publisher-controlled prices.

    2.) I buy cheap ($0.99 -> $2.99) books/authors that seem interesting but I’ve never heard of before.

    3.) I buy books that I’ve already read and liked.

    What do I mean by that last bit? Well, I download… everything.
    TV shows, movies, software, music.. and now books. (And before someone bursts a blood vessel or something at my blatant disregard for copyright legislature, downloading is very much legal in Iceland)
    Now, this means that I am introduced to a VAST amount of digital data, both good and bad. It doesn’t matter which of these things I read/watch/listen to/use.. if it’s bad or priced out of sync with it’s worth, I don’t pay for it. If it’s good, I look at the price. If the price isn’t a robbery, I pay it happily, but am far more likely to allow for a greater price if the product is excellent.

    There are tens of thousands of copyright-protected books floating around the internet, and I have quite a few of them. In fact, I have so many books that I will never read half of them in my lifetime. I love discovering new authors, and this huge library has introduced me to many FANTASTIC authors that I would never have heard of otherwise. Authors like David Dalglish, K.C. May and Deborah Harkness would never have found a place in my library and in my heart if I hadn’t downloaded them from somewhere and given them a chance. After reading A Discovery of Witches, I bought it for Penguin’s controlled $9.99, and after reading The Venom Of Vipers I bought it for a fair $2.99.
    Moreover, after reading The Weight of Blood, I bought the entire and very fairly priced Half-Orcs series. After reading the second book, I bought the rest of Dalglish’s books available on Kindle.
    Likewise, I have been introduced to some very poor authors that should never have been allowed to write a book in the first place. I do not pay for those.

    I download a lot, and because of that I buy FAR more than I otherwise would have. Some might claim that I am an anomaly, rather than the rule, but I believe I am a true portrayal of the majority of downloaders out there.
    If you are worth my money and don’t try to steal it, I’ll hand it to you willingly.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Arni!

      You were also absolutely right…I wasn’t sure how many ideas I was going to use (I wanted to give people a chance to contribute their own), and I did forget I’d listed five.

      I’ve fixed the poll and the post, and credited you! Thanks again!

      Second, we all download books…that’s how we get them from Amazon, for example. 🙂 I assume you mean downloading unauthorized copies of books under copyright protection. Just so people aren’t confused, my understanding is that the copyright laws in Iceland are not dissimilar to many other countries, and is part of the World Intellectual Property Organization:

      http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/details.jsp?id=2474

      As is generally the case (as I understand it as an interested layperson), it wouldn’t be downloading the files, but uploading and distributing them that would be illegal. If that’s the case, downloading them would not be illegal, but would arguably support an illegal activity.

      Thanks again for catching my error!

      • Arni Vidar Says:

        Glad to be of assistance. 🙂

        Yes, when I say I download, I mean stuff that I have not paid for. I am, however, very careful not to call it illegal or unauthorized or pirated or similar, since those things are highly argumentative. 🙂

        But as you say, our digital piracy laws do indeed only cover the uploading and distribution, and not downloading.

        As for the supporting bit, that argument is like saying that me looking at a well done piece of graffiti is supporting the illegal activity. The graffiti artist will do it regardless of whether or not anyone looks at it, just as the distributors of digital media will do it regardless of whether anyone actually downloads it 🙂

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Arni!

        “Pirated” might be argumentative, but I don’t think “unauthorized” is. Piracy suggests theft, which confuses that crime with infringement (both crimes, but different ones). An “unathorized” copy is just that: it has not been authorized by the rightsholders.

        This is an interesting assertion:

        “The graffiti artist will do it regardless of whether or not anyone looks at it, just as the distributors of digital media will do it regardless of whether anyone actually downloads it”

        I’d be very interested in seeing data that supported that. I doubt many graffiti artists make their creations where they think no one will see them (inside a closet, for example) and taggers are, I believe, specifically trying to be seen.

        I think that unauthorized distributors are, similarly, wanting people to download the files. Some of them presumably use the free files to attract people to sites where there are other revenue streams (advertising or other products). Some people may do it simply to make a point, but I think if no one ever downloaded the file, they might still be less likely to do it. I don’t think that the group who digitize a book without authorization and uses it only for themselves is the exact same group as the ones who digitize it and make it available to others.

        I’d be happy to look at the evidence that shows that people who make unauthorized copies available would do it just as much if no one was able to download it.

      • Arni Vidar Says:

        Hmm.. I think I can agree with you on the unauthorized part. It does convey the meaning without being overly judgmental, which is good.

        As for the graffiti/piracy analogy, let me explain a bit further

        Graffiti artists, as any artists, want to be seen (obviously) and they try to find places where their work may be seen by as many people as is possible. However, being artists they would still paint even if nobody ever saw their work, because it is an artistic expression above all.

        Taggers, however, are not the same thing. Taggers (as far as I understand their culture) are miscreants with gigantic magic markers (largely supported by their parents, mind you) trying to put their mark (tag) on everything they see. That is not about being seen, so much as about taking ‘ownership’, or somehow being territorial. Where graffiti can be gorgeous and beneficial to a community, tagging is neither of those things 🙂

        Now, according to my research into the Scenes (which are the groups of people that work very hard at pirating material), they are basically in an internal ‘war’ of trying to out-do each other. They pirate material almost entirely to compete with each other. The intent is never mass distribution. Once one scene has done a proper pirated copy, the other scenes do not attempt to create a ‘competing’ product. The only time any scene is allowed to create their own version of the same product is if the first product has been ‘nuked’, or deemed unfitting in quality or not following the scene rules.

        Once the ‘battle’ has been won, they release the material into the wild, where millions of users enjoy it. Obviously, like the artists, they enjoy being recognized by millions of people around the world and having their names in virtual neon.
        But they would still be pirating even if they didn’t share it with others, because they CAN. It’s all about fighting ‘the man’ and so forth. 😀

        As for digitizing something for yourself not being the same as for others, I see your point but there’s also a flip-side to that. I don’t know how old you are, but even in the tape-deck days, you’d share a mix-tape with your best friend, who would then share it with another friend, who might share it with two more and so on and so forth.
        The same goes with digitizing today. You’ll rip a movie for yourself and only for yourself, which is very much legal in any sense. Then your friend wants to watch it and you give it to him, which is not illegal per se, because it is not distribution. Three days later you see it on PB and 3000 people have downloaded it… and all of a sudden you are a pirate and the MPAA wants to get you 😀

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Arni!

        For me, I have a hard time equating scanning a paperbook and creating a PDF as being driven by the artistic urge. I don’t see the equivalency with a graffiti artist who might work on paper if a wall wasn’t available.

        I think your description of tagging misrepresents my understanding of it, to some degree. Taggers are not necessarily miscreants, and certainly aren’t necessarily supported by their parents. Where I am, tagging is often a statement of territory, not ownership (except in the sense of “this is our or my turf”). It could hypothetically be beneficial to a community by reducing violence…stay out of a tagged zone, avoid the actual confrontation. Of course, that’s a rosy view of it. 🙂

        I did think it was funny when a comedian said that they had asked a tagger why they did it, and had been informed it was about “owning” it. The comedian said, “Nobody thinks you actually own Costco!” 😉

        Your description of the “Scenes” is interesting, but I do find it unlikely that they would be doing it if they all agreed to simply delete the copy after it was approved by the groups in the “competition”. If it wasn’t going to be released to public, I honestly don’t think they’d be doing it. What you describe sounds like earning the right to do the distribution, which makes sense if they are trying to get back at “the Man” by fighting copyright. The question of copyright could be a long conversation between us, and I have been down that road a few times. 🙂 Feel free to respond to that issue if you like…I’ll just say that I try to follow the copyright laws.

        I don’t think my age is particularly relevant…but I do precede the days of “mix-tapes”. 🙂 If you do rip a movie (and that could be illegal, by the way, depending on how you do it…breaking the Digital Rights Management in and of itself can be illegal in the USA in some circumstances), and then send a copy to your friend, that is infringement. I’m curious what you would call giving a copy to someone else other than distribution? If your friend then made and sold or gave away 300 copies (on Pirate Bay, or by e-mail, or in any other distribution method), your friend would be liable for the 100 infringements, and you would be liable for the one. Again, I don’t know the Icelandic law, so it might be different there than in the USA. You might also be liable for having broken the DRM in the first place, and your friend might not be.

        I’m not an intellectual property attorney, just an interested layperson…

  4. Common Sense Says:

    Interesting questions!

    I haven’t been very good about tracking what I’ve read (a couple of hundred/year), but I would say paid vs free is about 50/50. I get far more free books, but some, like cookbooks, I don’t read per se, but I use them as reference. I have so many ebooks that by the time I go to pick the next one, I don’t remember if it was free or paid or even what it was about. I just randomly pick something in the genre I’m in the mood for.

    The last question didn’t have my reason, which is that I buy books that interest me and that fall within my price range. I have very few ebooks that I’ve paid more than $3.99 for, I left the Big 6 world a long time ago and almost always get indies, affordable backlist, free, and sale books. I have over 5,000 so it’s definitely working for me.

    The books I’m most likely to pay for are those where I’ve read a free or sale book by that author, really liked it, then got the rest of them. I recently did that for two backlist series and the books were all $3.99 each. There are also some indie authors that I really like that I will always buy, like Gordon Ryan (can’t wait for Rebellion #4!).

    I spend about $100/month on ebooks and some music from Amazon, mostly ebooks.

  5. Laura Says:

    Most of my purchases are either:

    Work-related non-fiction (I write about diet and health, so I read a lot of books like this)

    Books my book club is reading

    Gifts

    Most of the fiction or non-fiction I choose to read on my own is either borrowed from the library or KOLL. I do buy some, but probably only one every month or two.

  6. Pam Says:

    One book on a subject leads to another by a different author and I’m on a roll with that subject so I’ll pay for those books. They’re usually not new and usually not really old (Gutenberg). Happens to me alot. I’m more of a nonfiction reader.

  7. Emily Says:

    Yes, I seem to have skipped that last sentence! Oops! I was trying to emphasize that there has to be an additional factor besides that the book is new. As a rule I don’t buy books that say, “this price was set by the publisher.” Even if I want to really want to read it! The one exception would be if I’ve already invested a number of years (or decades!) in the storyline. I still feel guilty for supporting “agency model publishers” but it happens so rarely that I allow myself that little cheat.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Emily!

      Oh, it’s easy to miss a line like that..as Arni pointed out, I initially missed a choice in the poll, and I’d written the choices. 😉

      I don’t decline to buy a book just because it is an Agency Model title. I think the Agency Model is a bad decision on the publisher’s part, and I think it may go away this year, but I don’t “disqualify” a book on that basis. I do, on the other hand, not buy books where text-to-speech access is blocked…

  8. Bailey Says:

    I pay for books that I know I like (i.e. I’ve read them before, fan of the author etc.) I’m probably in the minority of serious readers in that I’m going to reread any book I purchase multiple times. I’m also a very picky reader with a /very/ limited budget: no desire or money to get books I might not like, even if they’re cheap or free. I also dislike cluttering up my kindle with unread books.
    Well, there’s my mini self-analysis on my ebook spending habits 🙂

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Bailey!

      Many of the free books I get are books I know are likely to be ones I like…they are public domain titles which have stood the test of time and/or with which I am familiar (even if I haven’t read them).

      I’m not a big re-reader, but I know some people are.

  9. Man in the Middle Says:

    I’ve paid for 24 of the 179 Ebooks I’ve read over the past 3 years, not including the library of Amazon Vine physical books also read during that time.

    Make It Paleo cookbook, $10, wife requested it, never read
    Dirty Parts of the Bible historical fiction, $0.69, intriguing title – waited until on sale, read right away
    Laughing at Obama, $1, political humor, recommended by a blog, read right away
    Sea of Shadows, $1, military thriller, suggested by Amazon, read right away
    My King the President, $1, suggested by Amazon or blog, read right away
    Learn Me Good, $2,50, suggested by Amazon, read right away
    Metagame, $0.01, had already read for free on iReader, archival copy
    Soul Identity, $0.01, thriller, suggested by Amazon, read right away
    Tiger’s Curse, $1, fantasy romance, suggested by Amazon, managed to finish it eventually
    Noble Vision, $1, medical ethics thriller, suggested by Amazon, started right away and eventually managed to finish
    Kindle 2 book, $4, suggested by blog, read right away
    This is Herman Cain, $11, political biography, suggested by him and bought to support, read right away
    Alexander Galaxius, $8, sci fi bargain omnibus of 3 books, suggested by Amazon, read right away
    In Her Name, $7, sci fi bargain omnibus of 3 books, suggested by Amazon, both read right away
    Temporary Duty, $3, sci fi, suggested by Amazon, both read right away
    Amsterdam 2012, $3, religious/political thriller, suggested by Amazon or blog, read right away
    Holiday Illusion, $4, Christian romance, wife wanted, she read right away
    Healthy Aging, $6, Medical self-help, suggested by wife’s doctor, she read right away
    FIbromyalgia, $4, Medical, suggested by wife’s doctor, she read right away
    Treat Me Not My Age, $14, Medical self-help, recommended by Amazon or a blog, read right away
    The Ultimate Suburban Survivalist Guide, $14, suggested by Amazon and cheaper than replacing another book on topic that is still not available as an Ebook, read right away
    The Shack, $8, requested by wife after we gave copies of the physical book away, we’d both read so this is an archival copy
    When Helping Hurts, $8, recommended by church, read right away
    A Step Further Out, $3, suggested by a blog, read right away

    In summary, if I paid over $3 for an Ebook, it was either because my wife wanted it, to support an author, to add to our permanent library, a bargain omnibus, or the least costly way to get a wanted book.

    If I paid $3 or less, it was for something recommended to me that was of a category one or both of us find interesting, with good reviews on Amazon, and an interesting sample.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Man!

      My Significant Other is much more likely to pay for a book than I am (we are on the same account), and it may be more than a few dollars. Part of that is that it is easier to find those books. You might hear about one in, say, People magazine. Looking for books can be overwhelming (there are so many of them), and layering on additional conditions makes it harder. My SO does take the time to check text-to-speech access, though.

  10. Lady Galaxy Says:

    I keep a spreadsheet for all my Kindle purposes to make it easier when tax time comes, so I checked and out of the 82 books I’ve downloaded this year, I paid for 28 of them. That comes to roughly 1/3. But I just realized that I didn’t include the 3 I borrowed from the lending library. Of the 3 I borrowed, I finished one and gave up on the other two about a third of the way in.

    Of the books I’ve downloaded so far this year, I read 8 that I paid for, 4 that were free. I deleted half a dozen of the freebies after reading far enough to realize that the writers were seriously in need of some basic English grammar lessons and a really good editor (in one case, a cookbook, I didn’t even get past the introduction pages because they were so full of spelling and grammar errors that I had no confidence the recipes would be any less of a mess.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      I’m fortunate in California because we don’t owe sales/use tax on e-books delivered electronically, so I don’t need to track that. We would owe tax if we bought them on a CD, though.

      I’ll probably go back and check at some point. Last year, the titles would have been overwhelmingly free…I think that’s not as much the case so far this year.

  11. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I think you miss an important reason why people read books, and why they might pay for them: simply to be entertained.

    As for me I never acquire a book unless I’m going to read it (I’m excluding books I buy for reference purposes here). I almost always pay for the ebooks that I acquire because the vast majority of “free” books are older titles in the public domain — they rarely have much entertainment value for me (and if they do, then I’m likely to have read most of it e.g. PG Wodehouse, Sherlock Holmes, RL Stevenson, etc). Admittedly, much of the Project Gutenberg oeuvre consists of worthy stuff — stuff I had to read in HS and Uni — sorry just not that entertaining to me any more — and while there might be stuff therein that would entertain me, it’s easier to find reading enjoyment in the realms of more current fare (and a lower search cost for me as well — my time is valuable).

    I choose the titles I buy (and I almost always buy with real money)based on an author’s past ability to entertain, or the genre (sci-fi, suspense, mystery etc) and a blurb that indicates to me that I might enjoy it. Your poll of reasons why I might spend money for an e-book seems to completely ignore the potential that it might be enjoyable to read — so I can’t respond.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I deliberately didn’t include all the reasons that came to me, but I didn’t think of including that. I would have presumed that “…it might be enjoyable to read” is the same for a free book or a purchased book. In other words, I didn’t see it as a reason why you paid for a book, but as a reason why you got a book, whether you paid for it or not.

      However, the idea that you pay for a book because you can’t as easily find a free book you think you might equally like…that’s a legitimate reason. That could encourage people to make free books less discoverable.

      For me, I don’t have any trouble finding public domain titles I think I might enjoy…

      • Edward Boyhan Says:

        After reading your reply, I was reminded of a saying from my Wall Street days: if my competitor can buy/get it, it’s valueless. That in turn reminded me that as a child it was the family joke that whenever we went out to eat at a restaurant, I would always order the most expensive item on the menu.

        I guess in part price is (at least partially) a proxy for “value” — so another reason why people (certainly me in part) might pay instead of getting “free” because “free” connotes “without value”. Either it’s in the public domain (therefore “old”) or it’s selling so badly that it needs to be promoted via a “free” offer.

  12. Cecilia Says:

    I am a librarian, and like many librarians I spend a lot of money on books. However, unlike some, I do not buy space for books. (My late boss had over 5,000 books packed in a three bedroom house when he died. He lived around the edges of his collection.) Now I can get rid of my collection of physical books and collect the books I had to give up after reading. I can have my entire library with me when I travel. I have over 2,000 books. I probably do not spend more than $5 per book on average even though I have spend more than $20 for a book I really wanted–which is still less than the $25 to $35 you would spend for a hardback that you know will never make it to the paperback stage.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Cecilia!

      I do buy space for books. 🙂 For a very long time, we’ve had one room in the house for a floor to ceiling library. We paid a lot more for a house to have that extra “bedroom”. I have something like 10,000 paperbooks on shelves in my home…and now, thousands in my archives at Amazon. Since I’ve had my Kindle, I’ve gotten only a couple of paperbooks: I made the transition pretty quickly.

      Last time I calculated how much I spent on average for e-books in a month, it was about six cents.

      https://ilmk.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/the-low-down-on-my-downloads-july-2011/

      I think if I did that calculation again, it might be higher…

  13. jjhitt Says:

    “I want it.” — If it’s available for free, I’ll get it that way. If not, I’ll pay for it when I can afford it. I don’t pick books solely on price, I pick content. If it’s free, nice. If it’s not free, I still want it.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, jjhitt!

      It’s interesting: I think I was really looking for why one would pay for a book rather than getting a free book, and a couple of the commenters have made the point that they get it because…they want that particular book. I’m typically not driven to get a specific book…I like so many things.

  14. Deborah Meyer Says:

    Some of the reasons not mentioned, I truly want to read the books and/or because I can adjust the font size. I am less likely to buy a book that cost as much as the paperback or hardback. In that case I may as week buy the HB or PB. I do enjoy the fact that many of the classic books I had to buy before e-books became available are now free. Years ago, I couldn’t even find a copy of Tarzan at the library or at the bookstore. And fortunately I had a Classic Books Cd so I was able to read it on my computer. Unfortunately I don’t like reading on the computer so I would print the chapters to read. Thank goodness for ebooks. I was able to get the ebook from many books.net and then I discovered Gutenberg. For many of the classics I refer patrons to Gutenberg, Manybooks.net or Amazon for a free download.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Deborah!

      I don’t think you’ll find it’s harder to increase the text size on a free e-book than on an e-book for which you pay something. Project Gutenberg, which is a wonderful resource I’ve mentioned many times, made a point of having the books be accessible…one way is by making “vanilla” text versions available. A fancy look version (for which you would be likely to pay) might not have the ability to increase the font size (although you might be able to zoom it).

      I also like FeedBooks.com, and I’d suggest Archive.org as well.

  15. Tom Semple Says:

    Though I do read ‘free’ content, I don’t think it significantly impacts my purchasing of ebooks, since much of what I’m interested in reading is not free. At most (in the case of content I get from a public library or Kindle Lending Library) it prevents me from actually reading the ebooks I’ve purchased, since the loan is time-limited and gets higher priority than my other reading choices.

    My purchasing behavior of late is driven by limited time offers which are usually at low, below $4 price points. Impulse buying in other words. I’m less concerned with whether I’ll actually find time to read the book, because they don’t cost much.

    By contrast, best sellers offered typically at $12.99 or more take just as much time to read, but involve more risk. I’ll download a sample, or put it on my wish list to consider a purchase at a later time. Much of the time, that means I’ll never purchase since my interest proves transient, and I have plenty to read that interests me.

    But my limit is more one of time, not money. And recognizing this, I’ve begun trying to cut back on free and low-cost content, so there is room for more reading of my ‘A list’ (even if I have to pay more for it).

    I can appreciate the dilemma publishers face in coming up with prices that can compete with ‘free’ or low cost books, while also trying to operate a profitable print business. That said, I do think it would be worth their while to experiment with lower ebook prices, or subscription models, and selling more to people like me who have more interest than time. After all, if they can sell 3x more at half the price they come out ahead, even as our ‘to be read’ lists get longer and longer.

  16. tuxgirl Says:

    If it’s a book I really want to read, and I’m ready to read it now, I’ll pay for it. Other than that, it’s an issue where it’s a sale price, or I expect the price to go up… But I have well over 1600 books in my TBR pile, so I have to *really* want to read the book in order to pay for it.

  17. Lona Jennings Says:

    You say “support author”. I say “obsessed with author”.

  18. Mary Says:

    I read a LOT of book reviews because I subscribe to Publishers Weekly, and I make lists of what I want to read after having read a review. Also read reviews from other places. I am a former librarian, have always made lists of what I want to read, and have little patience for slogging through things just because they are free. But if they are free and I have a reason to want to read them, then that is a different story. My tastes are very eclectic but that does not mean I will read any old thing. Thus I end up paying for most of my books unless I can check them out of the library digitally. I still do read the occasional library book in print form, too. I have a VERY long list on ereaderiq of books awaiting price drops so that is one list I don’t need to keep personally, and they let me know when something has dropped in price. I will never run out of books to read.

  19. angela Says:

    As some others have stated, I will pay for an ebook if it is part of a series I liked, or if it is a positively-reviewed book by an author I have just read. Most of the time it works like this: I read a free fictional book on kindle, love it, and then search amazon for others in the series or others by that author. These are usually NOT new books. The free ones might have been published 5 years ago but just became available on kindle … And once I’m hooked, I will pay for more!

  20. Lady Galaxy Says:

    Thanks for the heads up about sales tax. I just assumed they would be taxable, but now I’m wondering? I checked the “FAQ” for my state and didn’t find it in the taxable or tax exempt area. Perhaps it’s something that hasn’t hit their radar screen yet. I wrote for clarification. I hope I don’t end up closing a loophole of sorts, but I don’t want to end up in a cell next to Richard Hatch for tax evasion;)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      If you’d care to share the state, I’ll take a look for you…or you can just let me know what you discover. 🙂

      I don’t think it’s just a question of the radar. i think it’s because it is a contract, not a physical object. You don’t pay sales tax on contracts, typically.

  21. Lady Galaxy Says:

    Thank you! I heard back from the tax guys, and my Kindle books and MP3 downloads are NOT taxable, so that means I can stop adding all those items to my spreadsheet. (Though I do like having a list of the books I’ve purchased on Kindle and when I purchased them, so I might keep them on a non total spot on the spreadsheet.) Thank goodness I hadn’t filed my tax return yet! This might be a topic to consider as a main article some day since there may be other people in my state as well as other states with the same policy who were making the same wrong assumption I was making. Not all of us who get the blog sent to our Kindles come to the website to check comments. Anyway, thanks again!!!!!!

  22. LadySciFi Says:

    You left out the most common way a publisher has gotten me to pay for a book… they give away the 1st in a series for free. My interest in the series as well as my desire to keep the author writing has prompted me to pay as much as 12.99 for a book

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