Should I have this free book?

Jul 30th, 2015 | By | Category: Articles

2By Nimue Brown.

Everyone likes a freebie, but if you’re at all interested in books and authors, you’ll already know that pirated books are really bad for the industry. Most authors don’t make enough to live on – which makes stealing their work and giving it away particularly unfair. Anyone who wants to support the creation of books needs to think carefully about whether the freebie in front of them is a good thing or not. Pirate websites aren’t always self announcing, so how do you tell if a free book is legitimately free, or ripping off the creator? Some free books are fantastic. Here are some things to watch for.

Is the author giving away a book? It might be on their blog, on a site like goodreads, as part of a contest, a short term promotion or something from the back catalogue that is out of print. If the author is giving away a book, please take a copy, and then tell all your friends. It’s a great way for authors to pick up new readers, make use of older works or boost the profile of a new release.

Is the publisher giving away the book? This works pretty much the same way as the author doing it and for all the same reasons, and is generally a good thing. Occasionally, spats between authors and publishers can lead to some odd outcomes on this score. If you think there’s something weird about it, check what the author is saying. Generally though, if a reputable publisher gives away a book, take full advantage!

Is it on a reputable site? Giveaways happen on goodreads, books can be briefly free on amazon and other sales locations to help boost the profile of the book. If generally the site sells books and the offer is limited in some way – winners of a contest, or a couple of days of the title being free, it’s a legitimate offer and you should get in there and enjoy it.

If all the books on a site are free, despite being for sale somewhere else, this is a big warning sign. Now ask yourself why all the books are free? Building and maintaining a website costs time and money, so how are the people doing it covering their costs? What are you going to download alongside that book? It’s not unusual for pirate sites to add unsavoury things to the package. Do you want to trust someone who is in the business of stealing other people’s works? Probably not.

For some, giving away books is an anarchistic reaction to capitalism. If you want to be anti-capitalist, that’s fine, but that doesn’t entitle you to force other people to join in by stealing their work and giving it away. Most authors, to repeat, do not earn enough to live on. Book theft is not a victimless crime, it’s not the case that most authors are as rich as J K Rowling – most are not, and theft hurts them. Choosing to give work away for free is one thing, taking it is another. If you want to challenge the ethics of consumerism, the answer is to give things away yourself, not to steal from other people. If you don’t like the idea of giving your own things away and want other people’s work for free… that’s a thing to think about.

I’ve got some free poetry ebooks over at – please do help yourself. And if you want to keep up to date with offers, contests, giveaways and other really good, ethically sound, free book opportunities from Moon Books, follow us on twitter – @moonbooksjhp or facebook.

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