Thanks to an endorsement and hosting by Oprah, the (temporarily) free e-book version of Suze Orman's Women & Money got downloaded over a million times on Valentine's Day. Truly amazing results. Now I wonder if Romantic Times will accuse Oprah and Suze of undercutting other writers' advances, the way they did with me and Melanie last year. I'm thinking no, how about you?
Major publishers are now beginning to dabble in free e-books as marketing tools. NAL linked to my Midnight Blues free Darkyn e-book over on their new paranormal web page, which gave me some nice exposure and them some no-cost content for their site. Win/win. I think this is also one of if not the first time a major publisher has used free, author-published fiction like this.
Over at HarperCollins, they've launched their new full-access Browse Inside ~ Try Before You Buy feature which offers free online-reading versions of published books. They also offer a link/widget code for some of the books that interested readers can put on their blogs or web sites (I attempted to copy and paste the code from HC to show you the widget, but Blogger refuses to accept the HTML, and it's way over my head so I can't tell what's wrong with it, other than what the warning box says -- some tag isn't closed.)
I browsed through Renegade's Magic by Robin Hobb, and while the content has some problems (slow loading, fuzzy text, and weird gray shading behind the text that made the letters harder to see) it's readable. However, there were only 131 pages available to read, so evidently not all the books advertised on the Browse Inside page are full-access.
I have discovered something interesting while moving my freebie archives over to Scribd*. Before the move, tracking how many copies of my free e-books* were read or downloaded was impossible. Not anymore. Since I uploaded Lunar Marshall four days ago, for example, Scribd* tells me that 240 folks have taken a look, read it online or downloaded it. It's not 1.1+ million copies, to be sure, but it's the virtual equivalent of hanging out sixty free books a day to interested readers all over the place -- at no cost to me or the recipients. Can't do that with print copies. *Note 9/3/10: Since Scribd.com instituted an access fee scam to charge people for downloading e-books, including those I have provided for free for the last ten years, I have removed my free library from their site, and no longer use or recommend using their service. My free reads may be read online or downloaded for free from Google Docs; go to my freebies and free reads page for the links. See my post about this scam here.
The debate over free e-books and content will doubtless continue, but it's nice to see a few publishers at least dipping their toes in the pool. If you know of and want to share any freebies being posted online or given away by publishers, please post a link in comments.
*All of my freebies started as new, never-before-published work, much of which I wrote specifically as giveaways. I don't advocate giving away gratis e-copies of print-published books (unless you can get Oprah to host them for a day on her web site; then, baby, jump at it.)