Ingram notes the explosion of cheaply self-published titles, and adds that a free Kindle would give such titles a greater-than-ever audience of potential buyers. Traditional publishers, of course, still haven’t gotten the message that cheaper books sell better.
He also touches on the Sam Harris column that I covered a few days ago, in which Harris bemoaned the increasing desire on consumers’ part to get everything for free, but Ingram points out that what consumers really want isn’t necessarily free, just cheaper. But even free books might not be so bad:
There’s even the possibility that books could be free and still make money: Amazon has an ad-supported Kindle, so why not extend that model to the books themselves? Magazine writers publish their content in an ad-supported medium, so why not books? Authors such as Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle wrote many of their novels on a monthly basis as magazine supplements. And Amazon apparently already has a patent that covers advertising-supported e-books.
I have very little doubt that many TeleRead readers will shudder at the idea of advertisements invading their e-books—but on the other hand, even if that happens I expect the e-books would still be available ad-free for those willing to pay extra.
Getting back to the overall point, though, I wonder if the ad-supported Kindle with Special Offers will hit free within just another year or two? I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see it hit “free to Amazon Prime subscribers,” given that Prime is already a significant cash cow for Amazon and that would give people an added incentive to sign up.
And as others have noted, even the $79 Kindle with Special Offers could be considered free in a sense, given that it’s possible to save as much money as the Kindle itself cost in a relatively short period of special offer buying. But that still requires that would-be readers must have $79 available in the first place, and be able to spend enough money afterward to save that much money.
The Kindle has already dropped in price an amazing amount in just a few short years since its introduction. It’s probably going to drop still further, even if it takes a while to make it to “free”. But you can bet that, as much as Amazon stands to gain from having Kindle owners buy its content, if there is a way to get it to free the company will do its level best to get there.