Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Confessions of a Free Kindle Addict

by Dina Sleiman

We’ve been hearing for years that ebooks are changing the face of publishing. I know for about two years now I’ve preferred reading on my kindle to print books. But this year a new phenomena has really changed my reading habits. Yes, as an author I should probably be ashamed to admit it, but I’ve become addicted to free ebooks. Here are some of the ways these free books have changed my reading practices.

1)      Unlimited Space – While I might bypass $.25 books at a yard sale just to keep from junking up my house, on an ereader, there is almost unlimited space. Still I try not to download free books unless I’ve at least heard of them before, had a vague desire to read them, and like the genre. But the down side is that these free ebooks have made me much less discriminating in my book choices. This causes me to wonder, will the market be flooded with cheap, poorly-written books as a result?

2)      No Need for the Library – In the past when I couldn’t afford books, I hit the public library or borrowed from friends. There’s no longer any need for that since I always have a library full of books waiting to be read on my kindle. Probably one big advantage in this area is that there are a lot more Christian books available as free downloads than I would be able to find at my local library. Of course, this leads me to ask, will the public library survive the ebook revolution?

3)      Never Pay for Books by New Authors – These days, sad to admit, I only check out new authors when I can do so for free. It seems silly to pay for books from new authors when I don’t even know if I’ll like them. I currently have books by about 25 new-to-me authors waiting to be read on my kindle. So I have to wonder, is anyone buying books by new authors? Before long, will we all need to give away our debut titles for free just to find an audience? And if so, will this chase wonderful authors away from the dream of publication?

4)      Patience Pays Off – In fact, I find that I rarely buy books even from my favorite authors, because if I wait long enough, chances are I’ll find them for free, or at least at a greatly reduced price. And goodness knows I have plenty of other books to wade through in the meantime. I almost never pay more than $5 for a book even by my favorite writers. If others are doing the same, what's the point in writing great books and earning an audience? How will anyone make a living at writing?

5)      If You Don’t Like It, Move On – By far the biggest change I’ve seen in my reading habits has been the fact that I often don’t finish books. If they don’t catch my fancy by 25% to  30% through, why keep going? I didn’t pay for it anyway, and my TBR stack grows every time I blink. But am I missing out on some great books due to my growing impatience and lack of perseverance?

No, I’m not proud of my free ebook addiction. In fact, I’m just a tad bit disgusted. Supposedly giving away ebooks is good for sales in the long run, and authors all but beg you to download their novels for free, but I can’t help but question that theory in light of my own buying habits. Of course, maybe not everyone is friends with 300 authors, so maybe they don’t have the same access to a ridiculous number of free books that I do. 

But then again, maybe they do. Maybe they’re as spoiled as me, and maybe before long it will seem ridiculous to spend money on books at all.

If you look through the list of books I’ve actually paid for in the past year, you’ll mostly find books I downloaded for my kids for educational purposes. I have paid full price for two novels that I read with my book club, and a few spiritual books that my husband and I downloaded to read together. I’ve bought a handful of novels and novellas in the $.99 - $4.99 range. I only found one novel with a price tag over $5 that I purchased just for me for no reason other than I wanted to read it. All I can say, is that I'm so glad my ebooks are both normally priced at under $4.

And what about print books? The only ones I bought for myself at full price this year were the Hunger Games books. My daughter and I are both fans, so I bought the hardback books in a set to keep on the family bookshelves.

Yes, from an author and publisher perspective, I'm concerned about where these free ebooks are taking us. But maybe you think they're a great idea and you're wondering how you’ve missed out on this trend. Certainly, there are lots of advantages, especially from the consumer side. If so, I suggest liking Spirit Filled Kindle on facebook. They send daily updates of free and cheap ebooks. Overall, it's a great concept, and the woman who runs it does a wonderful job.

And here's a list of cheap Inky ebooks, all under $5
The Mother Road by Jennifer AlLee
The Pastor's Wife by Jennifer AlLee
Redeeming the Rogue by C.J. Chase
In Honor Bound by DeAnna Julie Dodson
By Love Redeemed by DeAnna Julie Dodson
To Grace Surrendered by DeAnna Julie Dodson
Gold Frankincense and Murder by Barbara Early
No Substitute by Susan Diane Johnson
Love in Three-Quarter Time by Dina Sleiman
Dance of the Dandelion by Dina Sleiman

What do you think of this free ebook trend? Will it ultimately help or hurt sales? What result will it have on authors and publishers in the long run?

Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, won an honorable mention in the 2012 Selah Awards. Her latest novel, Love in Three-Quarter Time, is the launch title for the new Zondervan First imprint. Dina is a contributing author at Inkwell InspirationsColonial, a part-time acquistions editor for WhiteFire Publishing, and she is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at


  1. I am right there with you, Dina.
    I grab most free Kindle fiction from any of the CBA publishers. In the last month or so, I've also been thrilled to get a few that I REALLY REALLY wanted and didn't purchase when SURPRISE, they showed up on a free day!

    I have way more than I can ever read, which is the same thing with my physical To Be Read pile.

    I have mixed feelings about that. False sales numbers for authors?
    Authors getting less than a fair price for their work?
    Too many unhappy readers? too many poor reviews?

    Meanwhile, I will continue to look for free Kindle books. I think it's like bargain hunting. Who doesn't like FREE!!!??

    I love my Kindle, but sadly, I read fewer and fewer print books because of the ease. I mostly read in bed and I love not having to use a reading lamp.

    Like you, I find most of them through word of mouth on Facebook, and at times I go to the Free list on Amazon and go through the top 100. That is tricky as there is a lot of poorly written and trashy novels for free, but what a delight to find what I want there.

  2. Deb, I forgot about poor reviews. People who give their books away for free often find the wrong audience and end up with some pretty nasty reviews. I know this is true for Christian books at least.

  3. I wanted to add something I just noticed yesterday. Jen Turano is a new Bethany author. They offered a free kindle novella which was a prequel to her debut novel shortly before the novel released. It had the beginning of the novel at the end. Now that, I think, was marketing genius. The novella was awesome, and I'm very interested in buying the book now.

  4. i'm still figuring out my Kindle. i'm afraid i'll be going for free books more than purchasing books because finances dictate it.
    i feel guilty not purchasing some books, especially by the authors i've been introduced to here at the Inkwell because i want to support authors.
    i need to figure out a balance between purchasing and freebies so i know what to do once i've got a book budget again.

  5. Dina, I too thought offering free novella before novel's release was marketing genius. I have a slew of free reads on my kindle and have read almost none of them.

    The quandry is how do we make something cheap enough to lure readers yet not so cheap that the author gives her writing practically away for free?

    I don't mind reading fiction on kindle because if the book was so-so, then I won't care about re-reading. But with non-fiction, I'm continually reading and rereading ones. Read Steven James's Sailing Beneath the Stars three times already. I love marking up my non-fiction books. Not so much with fiction.

  6. Interesting, Gina. And you know, I think I'm getting more into novellas because of kindle too. I can check out a new author and have a whole story in about 2 hours. Maybe part of why I like them better on kindle is because you can buy a single novella rather than a collection.

  7. I like the free novella idea, too. I do know someone whose publisher made the first book of her series available free. All of her other books are doing well as a result because she's reached new readers who may not have picked up her book otherwise, and now they want to read all her books

    Great post, Dina. It sure has its pros and cons.

    Love the new background. Thank you, Lisa!

  8. You're not alone. But I'm not embarrassed because like you, I use these free books mostly to try authors I haven't read before. Sorry, but I'd rather try and know. For me, trying an author has led to future sales, so I don't feel bad about grabbing the freebie.

    If I feel bad about anything, it's that I have way more ebooks than I'm likely to read. I consider myself building an ebook library. When I want something new to read--as I did just this past weekend--I scroll through my Kindle books until I find something that grabs my attention, kind of like browsing in a library. Would that I could read them all, but it's just not likely, especially given that there are new free downloads to add to my collection every day.

  9. Suzie, I have a feeling that's the direction we might all be heading.

  10. You're right, Patricia. That is good if it leads to future sales. I think the part I'm a little embarassed about is that I haven't really been buying books even from many of my favorite authors.

    It does seem like I'm adding free books faster than I'll ever read them. I guess it's not really a problem unless my kindle gets too full.

  11. Great post. Thanks for the tip on Spirit filled Kindle. I also downloaded Jen Turano's novella. What a genius idea!

    I've been fairly successful curbing my free downloads. It's hard not to go hold wild, though.

  12. um, that would be HOG wild. Not hold wild. Which sounds weird.

  13. Yes, Susanne, it's definitely a challenge to keep it in check.

  14. Come to think of it, Susie, "hog wild" sound weird too!

    I don't have a lot of free novels on my Kindle. Maybe four or five. But I also hate paying over $4.99 for an e-book. It just doesn't feel like I got something real in return for my money.

    I do think the idea of releasing a free novella to go along with a novel is a fantastic idea and I have some ideas along that line myself.

  15. Yes, Lisa. I think about $1-$5 is good for an ebook.

  16. Hi. My name is Jen and I'm a free ebook-aholic.

    Yep, every day, I check the list of top 100 free ebooks on Kindle. I can't stop. It's an addiction. And I haven't read most of the ones I've downloaded, but I plan to. One day, when I take that Hawaiian vacation...

    Do they help sales? I can't say for certain, but I know that at least half of my sales for The Pastor's Wife have been in ebook format (90% of those were Kindle) so I do think the free ebook promotions helped get it noticed.

  17. Thanks for the unput, Jen. Maybe I'm just a little jealous since I haven't had the opportunity to offer mine for free yet. Glad it helped.

  18. I got three free Kindle Books over the Christmas period. Two were a pleasant surprise, having decided to check them and finding they were free.
    I did some investigating and found a whole list free on Amazon, and even did a blog post on them.
    The third I knew about, but as was said above being free has its advantages if I turn out not to like the books.

    Kindle is great for getting some less popular titles for which the paperback copies might be extortionate outside of America.

    As for addiction, does having both the Kindle and paperback editions of the Chastelayne Trilogy count as obsessional?

  19. Ha ha, I think that's an addiction that we at Inkwell can support :)


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