Experimenting with Free

Lastbookstoreinamerica_frontcoverThis is ever so slightly off-topic, but I know that many of you are writers, or landscapers, or small business owners, or self-employed people of some sort.  If you are, you have been asked at some point to give your work away for free.  Maybe you've wondered if "free" is the new "paid" and if there's some amount of giving stuff away for free that actually, paradoxically, weirdly, will pay off in some tangible way.

So if you're a writer, you may know that a Great Debate is raging about Amazon's new program for the Kindle, in which Amazon Prime members can "borrow" one Kindle book per month for free, Netflix-style. If you've published your own book on the Kindle, you can enroll in the lending library and get paid when Prime members borrow your book.  And you can give your Kindle ebook away, for free, for up to 5 days.  In exchange, Amazon gets a 90-day exclusive on your ebook.

So there is a HUGE debate about whether this is a terrible thing or a wonderful thing.  I won't rehash it here.  I'll just say that when I looked at sales of my novel on all other ebook platforms, I saw that I'd only sold 3 copies in the last 3 months through non-Amazon outlets, and decided I could afford to take it off the market for a 90-day trial period without unduly depriving the reading public of my literary contributions.

So my novel, The Last Bookstore in America, (which is itself about the future of books and bookstores in the digital age) is free to you Kindle owners through Thursday night. Go get it if you want it.  As of this writing, 13,500 other people already have.

What do you think of free?  Of course, this blog is practically free–we get a little beer money from the ads, but it's never been enough to pay an actual bill. When is free worthwhile?  When (from a business or career standpoint) does it make sense to give something away?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.