Amazon has made it easy to give away ebooks (with the condition of exclusivity, of course) but the idea isn't really new. Cory Doctorow and others have been advocates of free ebooks for more than a decade, with the science fiction community being early adopters of the idea.
People ask me why I give away so many ebooks (probably 300,000 copies since Christmas), and I say, "There are probably 20 million Kindles in America and I want to be on every one of them." I don't worry about lost sales because not that many people know who I am, despite multiple titles over the years. And it also fits my philosophy of idea gardens, where we all trade ideas and grow together.
Cory Doctorow lays out some of his notions in this free ebook , although some of the positions are decidedly dated--such as using the free ebooks to sell paper books. Doctorow also talks a little too gleefully about getting rich for my tastes, but that's his trip. The ideas in his ebook are free and worth it.
The challenge still remains: how do I get people to read these books? How do I reach the people who don;t even know I have books, or those who don't even know my ebooks are free? Where are the unexplored territories? Is it possible to build a productive communal model for big ebook giveaways?
I am currently developing a platform for huge ebook events, with sponsor-supported events. Free ebooks and lending libraries will soon make a joke of the $9.99 ebook. As Doctorow also notes, nobody knows how writers will make a living in a free world, but the first worry is to not be lost in obscurity. I still have 19.7 million Kindles to go, and seven billion readers worldwide!
Free through 2/18- Ghost Box: Six Supernatural Thrillers