L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

04 March 2009 Blog Home : March 2009 : Permalink

Free Ebook Sites = Internet Marketing Fail

One of the most successful ways that Baen has driven sales of its books is via its Free Library, whereat authors make certian of their books available for free download in a variety of ebook formats. It has frequently amazed me that other publishers have failed, hitherto, to jump on to the band wagon.

Well this might be changing. Although, at time of writing, the sites I'm writing about seem more like Marketing Fail than Sales Tool.

The first is the Suvudu free library from Random House/Spectre/Del Ray which is announced in this promising way:

Welcome to the Suvudu Free Book Library. We know it can be hard to navigate the countless fantasy and science fiction series out there and figure out which ones are right for you. Well, we're here to make those tough decisions a bit easier on you. With the Suvudu Free Book Library, you can read the first book in some of our most acclaimed series absolutely free! We're kicking off the library with five full-length novels for you to sample, but we'll be adding new titles on a regular basis, so be sure to sign up for our newsletter so you're the first to find out what our newest free offerings are!

Enough of the intro -- start downloading, and start reading!

Unfortunately there's a minor problemette. The FREE DOWNLOAD images and "Download Now" links don't work. Also, oddly, the announcement on the main suvudu.com page seems to have disappeared although Google shows it there:
Suvudu announcement in google
Perhaps they kicked it off too early and are reconsidering - though perhaps not because there is a scribd group with the books and download from there works (once you login to scribd). Unfortunately you can only download the book(s) as PDF - grrr - which is, IMO, potentially even more of a fail than the current "are they there or aren't they" thing.

This isn't the only fail. I also note that the Random House clutzes have got at least one of their links wrong (the text link to "His Majesty's Dragon" actually points to "Red Mars") and, for that matter, since this this site is supposed to be all about ebooks, it's kind of weird that all the links point to the dead tree edition of the book not the ebook edition.

Finally there's the question of how to buy a book if you decide that the free first book of the series was so good you want more. We'll glide lightly over the fact that "see other books in this series" simply points you to a list of all books by the author - or at least it does for all authors bar Turtledove - and the fact that we're still in paper first mode to note the utter idiocy.

When you click "buy now" you can't actually buy the book directly from Random House. A little window pops up suggesting that you might want to buy from Amazon, Sony, other with appropriate links. Well kind of fair enough except that when you click on the links you get a "search page" not the item itself. In amazon's case the search seems to work. At the sony site in at least one case you are told that Your Search For: "9780345484628" returned 0 results. If you don't like those choices and click on "other" you get a page like this pointless page of links.

All in all I'll put that in the "must try harder" category perhaps with a note added about "premature release" issues.

Still its better than Faber over in the UK who annouced in the Grauniad (picked up by booktrade yesterday) that:

Two years after Radiohead's pay-what-you-like album, In Rainbows, the independent UK publisher Faber is launching its own digital experiment, giving readers the chance to pay what they deem appropriate for historian Ben Wilson's latest book, fittingly titled What Price Liberty?

You know something's amiss when the Groan article fails to provide a link and when googling "Faber Rainbows" doesn't pull up the site. If you do eventually make it to http://www.whatpriceliberty.co.uk/ you learn that we're suffering from really ridiculously "premature release" syndrome because (at time of writing) we are told that the campaign starts in 55 days and invitation to

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with email address etc.

How about wating to announce this thing when the book is actually available you idiots! as it is the buzz is going to fade away prematurely.