Free Books – worth what you pay for?

So I got an iPhone a few months ago. Yes, I love it. No, I don’t have any problems with AT&T’s coverage. Yes, I had Verizon before. No, I had no problems with their coverage, either. Yes, I think the commercials are witty, and no, I don’t like Luke Wilson any better.

Now that we got that out of the way, the point of this is that the iPhone has a free app that mimics the Amazon Kindle. Now some folks have wondered to me about the size of the screen, but let’s face it, the words are the same size as a paperback book, you just have fewer on the screen at one time than on a page. No big deal. So I love the app, and have bought several books for the Kindle as a result. And it was during some of my shopping the other day that I thought “Am I actively devaluing the book by searching for passable free books for my phone?”

Because I have a limited budget, and a stack of books waist-high in my house that I haven’t read, I’m on a moratorium on book-buying. This doesn’t mean I haven’t bought any new books, it just means that I don’t buy nearly as many and have the good grace to feel bad about it when I do. So I finished the last book on my phone, and went looking for another. And I cruised the bestseller list and decided not to pay any real money for an e-book this week, then moved on to the free books. Now most of these books are like crack, one free sample in a series to get you hooked, which I think is a good marketing ploy, but some of the others are just books that people have written that are out there for free.

And some of these are free for a reason. Namely, they suck. I’m all for the idea of allowing the market to determine the relative worth of a product, and allowing consumers to even set pricing for things by their decisions to buy or not to buy something. But I wonder about the market for writing becoming so devalued by the presence of so much free content out there. Already I see freelancers talking about rate cuts, and there’s always another kid coming along willing to do the same work for 2/3 the money, and there’s always somebody willing to sacrifice a quality writer on the altar of the dollar, but I wonder if the same deal transfers.

So am I devaluing my own work by becoming a lowest common denominator consumer? Is this the same as a local store owner shopping at Wal-Mart and feeling guilty? Or am I just overthinking again? I do believe that as people try to survive in a challenging economy, we need to make choices on where our money goes. And we need to make conscious, personal decisions regarding our spending, and on what we value. So I’m pretty sure I’ve answered my own question, and justified buying more e-books instead of grabbing free ones, but what about the bigger picture?

On the smaller picture front, here’s another video from Returning the Favor.

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One thought on “Free Books – worth what you pay for?

  1. i think you present a valid concern! (like the new look of the blog as well, btw)

    i have a bit of a moratorium on buying books right now as i think i have 20 or more in my to read pile? eek! but when i do buy i try to really use my buying power to say something especially with poetry. Here is a book that I will buy. The small numbers count more than people realize 🙂

    Hoping to come to story slam tomorrow night. Especially if this rain lets up!

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