Why I don’t read the free books I ‘buy’

The value of booksI came to a startling realization today:

I only read the books I slap money down for, or were given to me as a gift — and it wasn't given to me as a free gift. There is one exception to this, and it was a book I wanted to read by an author I already trusted.

Because I acquired the books for free on my own, they just aren't worth as much to me. I automatically, without any reason to believe this is actually the case, assume that because the book is free, it is not as good as the books that aren't. For whatever reason, I simply do not value these books as much as I do the ones I have scraped my budget to buy.

I ‘buy' free e-books when they're promotion.

I almost never read them.

I do not have a sense of immediacy with the ‘purchase'.

I do not have a serious desire to read the book.

I do not have an automatic connection with the book that I spent the money I worked hard to earn. It was free. That means it can wait.

Free books don't force me to read them. I acquire them, I load them on my kindle, and in the back of my head, I know the author gave it away. I file it as something I can push off for another time. A book that just isn't as important as the ones that were given to me by the author directly for reviewing or books that I have decided to spend money on myself.

I don't know why this didn't occur to me until right this moment. But, I do know that it made me very, very aware of my opinions on the value of books. The more I spent on a book, the higher my expectations for that book are. In addition to this, the more I spend on a book, the more I really want to enjoy that book. This colors how I feel about the book.

This makes me, just from the desire to like it more, to actually like it more. I spent all of that money on the book, so I want to like it. It's the same approach I take with book review copies I receive — someone approached me, asking me to review — I want to enjoy that book. I don't want to leave a harsh review. But, because I'm honest, I do leave less-than-glowing reviews of stories.

I learned something, today:

I learned that I don't just judge a book by its cover, its sample, and its description.

I judge it on its price.

I wonder if this will change whether or not I download books on author promotion for free. I'm not reading those titles. It doesn't support the author that I've downloaded them. I'm not really interested in reading those books. I grabbed them because they're free — because there might be a chance I might read the title.

I guess only time will tell.

Do you find that you're less likely to read a book you've acquired for free?

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8 comments
Jess Versteeg says May 31, 2013

I only get free non-fiction and often they’re productivity or ‘self-help’ kind of stuff. Which is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. I’ve found some pretty great authors this way. Fiction, though? I would assume it’s crap if I didn’t know the author already.

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    RJBlain says May 31, 2013

    I am going to have to try that — I love reading resource material and non-fiction; it really helps my writing. I suspect I would actually acquire non-fiction books I picked up for free because they’re of practical use. I’d also ‘shop’ for them a bit differently too, I think — I’d pick the ones I could apply to my writing.

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Jess Versteeg says May 31, 2013

eg: I got Death By Meeting by Pat Lencioni for free. Great book, well respected author!

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Leo says May 31, 2013

Very interesting thoughts. I never paid it much attention, but you are right. We all do invest a bit of ourselves into what we buy. And once we make the plunge, want to get our value…

I do have one exception to this “free” dichotomy, though. Since I am involved in a lot of writer’s groups, I get a lot of requests to be a “beta reader” for other writers’ completed novels. But perhaps this, too, is because I’ve invested time in building the relationship. And often have seen a work grow through multiple drafts across months of meetings.

That said, thanks for a thought provoking post.

Cheers,
Leo Walsh
Author of “even snow melts” (http://www.evensnowmelts.com/)

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Elizabeth Whittaker says May 31, 2013

Actually, I don’t pay for a lot of my books right now, because of the library and lack of funds.

However, I find that those authors I like, I’ll pay for.

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Richard Levesque says May 31, 2013

I’ve given away around 10,000 copies of one of my novels during free days over the last 6 months. I know some people have read it and really enjoyed it–because I’ve heard from them directly–but I’m sure a large percentage are just sitting on people’s Kindles getting bumped in the queue by books with greater priority. On the other hand, the mass giveaways have been about the only thing that’s worked for me so far when it comes to getting my name “out there” as I try to develop a fan base. Interesting post–I’m sure many other readers feel the same way.

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Katie Cross says June 1, 2013

I’ve never seen this side of it, but I can sympathize with it. I don’t appreciate things I don’t work for as much either, and I hate gifts.

I still haven’t really let myself get into the kindle world, but from the books I’ve collected for free on my computer, I don’t read them as much either. I liked this different viewpoint, thanks!

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Rebecka Reddick says June 3, 2013

I see where you’re coming from on this one, but I usually only download free ebooks that I’m really interested in reading. I’ve acquired four or five excellent books on writing tips and social media marketing over the past few months. These are all books that I probably would have bought anyways, but if they’re free, even better for my wallet!
I have several hundred nonfiction books on my Kindle right now. I have been able to get most of them for free or on discount. Michael Gallagher’s blog fkbooksandtips.com is a great resource for finding out what’s free or discounted every day.

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