In the rest of book-land, however, Amazon is using “free” in a novel way – to level the playing field between large publishers and self-published authors. The open question is whether this is just to improve Amazon’s store of proprietary content or if it’s a radical play to totally disintermediate publishing.
Now, the post was about as ignorant of the ebook market as I have come to expect of Forbes; the author didn't mention any other ways he could give away his ebook and in fact framed his post with the assumption that Amazon was special because they let authors give away their ebooks.
Either way, Amazon has built an economic and promotional model for self-publishing that is too compelling for any author not signed with a six-figure advance by a big publisher to ignore. Remember that Kindle books are not just read on Kindles but on any device with the Kindle app – including iPads, iPhones and Android phones.
As you might know, there are other options for giving away free ebooks. Smashwords, for example, lets authors set the price at zero. I knew that, and so I was planning to criticize the Forbes article for basic ignorance of the ebook market. But then I got to wondering if this author was really all that ignorant.
I can recall past reports from Mark Coker and others about situations where authors lacked basic information. There's the Lendink debacle, as you well know, but according to Mark Coker he has encountered many other situations where authors lacked basic knowledge:
Over the last four years, here at Smashwords we’ve faced probably hundreds if not thousands of mini-panics, many of which might have developed into raving angry mobs as developed around this one had we not taken steps to diffuse them. For example, dozens of times we’ve had authors claim illegal copies of their books were being distributed by our retail partners, simply because the author didn’t realize we were a distributor.
And so I started wondering whether David Vinjamuri was more or less knowledgeable than the average author. He just published his first indie book, so arguably he's really just starting out. Do you think a more experienced author would know more?
The thing is, I knew better. And while I would expect someone writing for Forbes to also know better, there's a chance that he represents the average author. But then again I am also an information junkie that learns about stuff just for the sake of learning it. Most authors don't have the time or the obsession I am blessed with. (And to be honest, even I don't know everything. Much of what I know is who to ask and how to find information.) And rather than assume I know better than everyone, I decided to leave this question open.
What do you think?