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Old 04-16-2014, 03:26 PM   #1
Gregg Bell
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What's the best way to make my ebooks free?

I want to put something on my website like: 'if you can't afford to buy an ebook, please email me and I'll gift you one.'

In my researching this question, I found I can just email them a .mobi or .epub (saving me from paying for it--which is nice) and then they can sideload the files to their ereaders. Granted not everybody with a kindle may know how to sideload.

Someone else suggested uploading the .epub and .mobi files to my website and just saying people could download them for free.

I don't know how to do the uploading of the files. I don't know if it's even possible (the uploading and then subsequent downloading by visitors to my site). Is it?

And does anybody have any general ideas on how to go about this? I want to make the process as simple for the reader and for myself as possible.

Someone suggested collecting the email addresses via Mailchimp, but although that would be nice, I don't see that as a key consideration at this point.

Any ideas?
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Old 04-16-2014, 03:58 PM   #2
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I want to put something on my website like: 'if you can't afford to buy an ebook, please email me and I'll gift you one.'
The question is, are you normally selling your books and want to do this giveaway on one-by-one basis?
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Old 04-16-2014, 04:33 PM   #3
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It sounds like "email me and I'll gift you" would be the easiest for you, given the difficulty and uncontrolled nature of making it downloadable.

If you don't want them to be "really" free, such as a Creative Commons license, then be sure to mark them with a copyright notice and all rights reserved.

If they can't figure out how to make use of your gift, then maybe they should be paying for it.-)
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Old 04-16-2014, 08:50 PM   #4
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The email-response model might be difficult if you have a lot of people interested. You might also want to make a time limit on it.
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Old 04-17-2014, 02:41 AM   #5
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The question is, are you normally selling your books and want to do this giveaway on one-by-one basis?
Thanks kacir. Yeah, the books are all for sale on the website. It's just if somebody coudln't afford one (it's not like they're that expensive!) I'd like to give them one.
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Old 04-17-2014, 02:51 AM   #6
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It sounds like "email me and I'll gift you" would be the easiest for you, given the difficulty and uncontrolled nature of making it downloadable.

If you don't want them to be "really" free, such as a Creative Commons license, then be sure to mark them with a copyright notice and all rights reserved.

If they can't figure out how to make use of your gift, then maybe they should be paying for it.-)
Thanks rjb. "the difficulty and uncontrolled nature of making it downloadable." Could you elaborate on that a touch? I know Hitch has talked about the hassle of selling ebooks from a website. I suppose having free downloads might present a similar problem. I might be getting irate emails like, "I tried to download the free book and it didn't work!" (Is that the sort of thing you're referring to?)

And the "email me and I'll gift you" part? What would be the best way to gift them? Just send them a .mobi or an .epub? Or gift them (which would cost me money) via Amazon, or use Smashwords coupons, which seems like a hassle, or something else?

And yeah, all the books have a copyright page. And I'm not making them free. I'm just giving them to the people that can't afford them.

And yeah, if the poof schlubs can't figure it out, they should pay! (good thinking!)
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Old 04-17-2014, 02:52 AM   #7
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The email-response model might be difficult if you have a lot of people interested. You might also want to make a time limit on it.
Thanks cromag. That would be a problem I would welcome!
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Old 04-17-2014, 02:58 AM   #8
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Have you looked at the Smashwords Coupon Manager? I haven't done this myself yet, but I wonder if you may be able to set up coupons that you only give to a select few.
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Old 04-17-2014, 07:34 AM   #9
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Thanks kacir. Yeah, the books are all for sale on the website. It's just if somebody coudln't afford one (it's not like they're that expensive!) I'd like to give them one.
In that case I would stick to the "Email me an explanation why you can't afford my book and I will gift it to you". When you just post the book for free download then some people will just download it instead of buying it.
Ask them to tell you what kind of device they have, so you could send them either a mobi or an epub.
You will see how many requests you receive and then you can decide what to do in the future.

Remember, when Amazon finds out you are giving out the books (putting then up for download for anyone) they might decide to "match the price" ;-).
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Old 04-17-2014, 01:42 PM   #10
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Thanks rjb. "the difficulty and uncontrolled nature of making it downloadable." Could you elaborate on that a touch? I know Hitch has talked about the hassle of selling ebooks from a website. I suppose having free downloads might present a similar problem. I might be getting irate emails like, "I tried to download the free book and it didn't work!" (Is that the sort of thing you're referring to?)

And the "email me and I'll gift you" part? What would be the best way to gift them? Just send them a .mobi or an .epub? Or gift them (which would cost me money) via Amazon, or use Smashwords coupons, which seems like a hassle, or something else?

And yeah, all the books have a copyright page. And I'm not making them free. I'm just giving them to the people that can't afford them.

And yeah, if the poof schlubs can't figure it out, they should pay! (good thinking!)
The difficulty I deduced from you. You don't know how to do it. Uncontrolled in the sense that there won't be much indication, other than pure numbers, of who's downloading them and why. Important to some.

"Email me and I'll gift you" was your idea. A simple matter of them trading their email address for the book, which you'd simply attach to your reply. No need to complicate it or go to any expense.

As kacir said, Amazon doesn't like people to offer their books elsewhere for a lower price. Maybe if you couch it as a "special promotional offer?"
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Old 04-17-2014, 03:00 PM   #11
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The answer to your question depends on what you're trying to achieve. Sure, the easiest way to deal with it is to upload an .epub to your website and give people the link to it, so they can download it and sideload it by USB cable or whatever onto their reading device. Depending on the reading device, probably one could even browse your website download link with the device and open it directly, if the e-readers software is capable of doing so. In terms of the “uncontrollable” nature of this distribution method, it might occur that people share the download link within their group of friends or make it even publicly known, so that everybody can download the file from your server. But please keep in mind that in digital technology, which is built to copy and transmit data, there's in general no way to prevent that, because if you e-mail your .epub to somebody, he might as well just upload the file onto a server and making the link to it publicly known. Additionally, there's no way to prevent “uncontrolled” sideloading over multiple devices. If you want, you can collect download statistics with the webserver logs (a webserver is able to log access to files, which can be turned on/off and can be displayed in a human readable form with some tools), but as said, those download statistics are limited to distribution done by your webserver, while you can't monitor distribution done by others after somebody somewhere in the chain downloaded the file initially from your webserver.

Still, you might want to create some kind of artificial scarcity on your side by preventing unlimited downloads from your server (which doesn't make much sense technically, but most people are more interested in convenience than doing stuff with your files). One way to do this is to let the webserver create individual download links for every download request you receive, which stops to work after the first download, so at least nobody can download with this link again after it was used once. You may use this to monitor who actually downloaded the file. This doesn't help at all against “uncontrolled” distribution after this initial download was made. Usually there's software for doing so off the shelf, but it is too easy for a web software developer of your choice to implement such a tool for you, so in general that's a method that can be used. In order to track “uncontrolled” distribution to some extend, you might place links in your .epub which go to a website, while those links include individualized identifiers, which you can match to the initial download provided by you. If a reader clicks on it, not knowing that the link is containing an identifier of the initial download, the linked webserver may track to which extend the file is distributed, but please note that such links can easily be removed, exclude all offline readers, and links can be clicked multiple times by the same person.

I'm in favor of providing e-books to a cheaper price or even without cost to people who can't afford it, I'm against artificial limitation of downloading, distribution and copying, I'm in favor of authors who don't try to sell files after they've made them artificially scarce (which is a pretty bad concept) and sell their ability to create those files (= texts) instead, maybe by offering incentives to willingly support the author or maybe by providing a combined online/offline experience. The only working way to protect your text from getting copied and distributed without your prior consent is to never write it down at all.

Last edited by skreutzer; 04-17-2014 at 03:05 PM.
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Old 04-18-2014, 01:29 AM   #12
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Have you looked at the Smashwords Coupon Manager? I haven't done this myself yet, but I wonder if you may be able to set up coupons that you only give to a select few.
Thanks G.M. I thought the coupons might be good but then it just seemed too complicated. Add to that that I just don't like Smashwords. They take the simplest thing and turn it into complication city. Plus I don't like their glomming onto the copyright page. I just don't like them.
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Old 04-18-2014, 01:38 AM   #13
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In that case I would stick to the "Email me an explanation why you can't afford my book and I will gift it to you". When you just post the book for free download then some people will just download it instead of buying it.
Ask them to tell you what kind of device they have, so you could send them either a mobi or an epub.
You will see how many requests you receive and then you can decide what to do in the future.

Remember, when Amazon finds out you are giving out the books (putting then up for download for anyone) they might decide to "match the price" ;-).
Thanks kacir. Appreciate the feedback. I couldn't see asking people to explain why they can't afford a book, but I think I like your idea of asking them whether they want a mobi or epub.

But I forgot about big brother Amazon's bots roaming the earth. I'm sure it's (their peremptory summary judgment price matching) not illegal but it should be. Because I want to give my books away doesn't mean Amazon has a right to. But Bezo's greed and attempt to corner the market knows no bounds.
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Old 04-18-2014, 01:43 AM   #14
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The difficulty I deduced from you. You don't know how to do it. Uncontrolled in the sense that there won't be much indication, other than pure numbers, of who's downloading them and why. Important to some.

"Email me and I'll gift you" was your idea. A simple matter of them trading their email address for the book, which you'd simply attach to your reply. No need to complicate it or go to any expense.

As kacir said, Amazon doesn't like people to offer their books elsewhere for a lower price. Maybe if you couch it as a "special promotional offer?"
Thanks rjb. Yeah, you're right. I don't know how to do the uploading thing and I think doing it would be a mess. Like I would have to be a customer service rep for everybody who had the slightest problem downloading or didn't know how to sideload a mobi onto their Kindle.

It seems like such a simple idea, though.

And good suggestion about the "special promotional offer." It's ironic, isn't it? If I want to make a book free at Amazon they won't do it.
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Old 04-18-2014, 02:00 AM   #15
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The answer to your question depends on what you're trying to achieve. Sure, the easiest way to deal with it is to upload an .epub to your website and give people the link to it, so they can download it and sideload it by USB cable or whatever onto their reading device.
Thanks a lot, skreutzer. I think in terms of championing open formats we're kindred souls. Your post was like an education in what's possible or not possible in this situation. If I do the giveaway, I would do something like what you suggested in uploading an .epub to my website and giving people a link to it (which gmw pointed out I don't know how to do lol but I could learn). Some of your other suggestions are no doubt great but they are beyond my capacity (or desire) to do. And then there's the complication of Amazon torpedoing the whole project with its price fixing, er, price matching.

Oh well. Maybe Amazon will go out of business and I won't have to worry about them.

Thanks again. Appreciate all your input.
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