Free books disappear from the USA Kindle store: tens of thousands gone

Free books disappear from the USA Kindle store: tens of thousands gone

Important update: it now appears that this may be the result of a technical glitch. See my later post Snapshot: June 1 2014 for more information.

One of the best things about the Kindle store for me has been the thousands of free public domain books available directly from there.

Even though you can get many from other sources, like

Project Gutenberg

there is a real advantage in having them as part of my Kindle library, with all of the Kindle service advantages (such as storing my annotations for me for free, Whispersync, and so on).

I track the number of free books each month, but this

Amazon Kindle Forum thread (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice*)

got me to check today, and the results shocked me.

I’m hoping this is just some temporary glitch, but the count I get right now is 1,352 free books in the USA Kindle store (including public domain). It’s 436 without public domain.

Compare that to the numbers as I have tracked them previously:

Free books (including public domain)

May 1, 2014: 59,957
April 1, 2014: 57,945
March 1, 2014: 58,588
February 1, 2014: 57,648
January 1, 2014: 56,793
December 1, 2013: 57,311
November 1, 2013: 58,238
October 1, 2013: 56,199
September 1, 2013: 57,547
August 1, 2013: 56,113
July 1, 2013: 55,068
June 1, 2013: 55,811
May 1, 2013: 54,033
April 1, 2013: 55,670
March 1, 2013: 54,946
February 1, 2013: 54,567
January 1, 2013: 54,538
December 1, 2012: 50,869
November 1, 2012: 50,938
October 1, 2012: 50,982
September 1, 2012: 52,601
August 1, 2012: 51,680
July 1: 53,728
June 1: 50,470
May 1: 48,904
April 1: 49,826
March 1: 51,860
February 1: 48,207
January 1, 2012: 46,201
December 1: 43,757
November 1: 42,657
October 1, 2011: 42,710
September 1, 2011: 39,540
August 1, 2011: 38,936
July 1, 2011: 38,627
June 1, 2011: 37,415
May 1, 2011: 36,481
April 1, 2011: 33,469
March 1, 2011: 15,931
February 1, 2011: 15,947
January 1, 2011: 16,758
December 1, 2010: 16,708
November 1, 2010: 16,703
October 1, 2010: 16,702
September 1, 2010: 16,726
August 1, 2010: 20,634
July 1, 2010: 20,628
June 1, 2010: 20,590
May 1, 2010: 20,601
April 1, 2010: 20,619
March 1, 2010: 20,143
February 1, 2010: 19788
January 1, 2010: 19,802
December 1, 2009: 19,895
November 1, 2009: 18,547
October 1, 2009: 7,428
February 28, 2009: 7,401

Free books (without public domain)

May 1, 2014: 13,191
April 1, 2014: 11,864
March 1, 2014: 12,500
February 1, 2014: 11,568
January 1, 2014: 11,091
December 1, 2013: 11,455
November 1, 2013: 11,262
October 1, 2013: 9,726
September 1, 2013: 10,794
August 1, 2013: 9,816
July 1, 2013: 8,921
June 1, 2013: 9,582
May 1, 2013: 7,807
April 1, 2013: 7,761
March 1, 2013: 7,710
February 1, 2013: 7,404
January 1, 2013: 7,261
December 1, 2012: 7,089
November 1, 2012: 7,186
October 1, 2012: 7,259
September 1, 2012: 8,701
August 1, 2012: 7,829
July 1, 2012: 9,660
June 1, 2012: 6,715
May 1, 2012: 5,195
April 1, 2012: 5,622
March 1, 2012: 8,356
February 1, 2012: 6,109
January 1, 2012: 4,102
December 1, 2011: 2,007
November 1, 2011: 1,681
October 1, 2011: 1,449
September 1, 2011: 1,283
August 1, 2011: 1,046
July 1, 2011: 883
June 1, 2011: 707
May 1, 2011: 20,984
April 1, 2011: 17,832
March 1, 2011: 241
February 1, 2011: 240
January 1, 2011: 230
December 1, 2010: 183
November 1, 2010: 171
October 1, 2010: 161
September 1, 2010: 143
August 1, 2010: 621 (125 without Amazon Breakthrough nominees)
July 1, 2010: 599 (102 without Amazon Breakthrough nominees)
June 1, 2010: 559 (63 without Amazon Breakthrough nominees)
May 1, 2010: 556 (57 without Amazon Breakthrough nominees)
April 1, 2010: 560 (59 without Amazon Breakthrough nominees)
March 1, 2010: 67
February 1, 2010: 52
January 1, 2010: 53
December 1, 2009: 84
November 1, 2009: 64
October 1, 2009: 67

I’ll check this again in the morning…virtual fingers crossed that they are back by then.

Update: checking it again this morning, it is even worse. I get 1,245 free books, 327 without public domain.

If this is deliberate, why would Amazon do it?

Well, offering free books does cost them something. Processing orders and storing files isn’t much (for someone like Amazon), but it does count. Customer service is expensive, and free books must generate some questions.

One could also argue that people will get free books instead of paying for books…I’ve certainly read free books when I might have read paid ones. For me, though, I would say that was more about the book than the fact it was free. I have also paid for books (public domain collections) which I could have gotten for free.

I’m going to keep my eye on this. Perhaps there is something transitional going on with file delivery. Hm…I suppose another possibility is that the free books are going to be made available just for Prime members, as yet another advantage of Prime. Maybe they are going to be made into part of a subser (subscription service) offered by Amazon.

I’m still hoping for it to just be some sort of goof (maybe even in the search  algorithm, although I’m searching the same way I always do) or something that is temporary.

Update: I thought of one way to test the “glitch” hypothesis. I searched for other price points: if they didn’t show a similar decline, it seemed less likely to me that it was a problem with the search.

$1.99 on May 1: 86,497 | $1.99 today: 21,738

$9.99 on May 1: 278,815 | $9.99 today: 33,304

Both of those massive reductions. Was the overall count also lower?

Overall on May 1: 2,576,533 | Overall today: 2,598,629

The overall appears to have grown not  inappropriately. Either this is an overall glitch in the search, or they are doing some odd removals.

New! Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

4 Responses to “Free books disappear from the USA Kindle store: tens of thousands gone”

  1. Deb Schmalz Says:

    I sure hope this is a glitch. If not it’s abhorrent move. My question is – Why??

  2. jjhitt Says:

    I think it’s a fluke. I did a search on “The” and sorted by price. Paged forward to page 15 and they’re still free….

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, jjhitt!

      If you got 16 results per page, that’s only 240 titles.

      Searching for “The” didn’t work for me…I only got 23 results, oddly.

      Sorting all of the USA Kindle store by price low to high, and then jumping ahead to page 400 (that’s as high as you can usually…about 6,400 titles), they are still free. That’s a higher number than I’m getting with the search.

      To jump ahead, by the way, you can edit where it says “page” in the URL (uniform or universal resource locator…web address):

      http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_pg_400?rh=n%3A133140011%2Cn%3A%21133141011%2Cn%3A154606011&page=2&sort=price-asc-rank&ie=UTF8&qid=1401539818

  3. Zebras Says:

    I just did a search on my Fire sorted all fromlow to high price and gave up scrolling through the free ones at the 1500 mark. Daily Free Books sent an email that it’s a glitch, but i don’t know if they assumed it or heard from Amazon.

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