Correlation between free e-books and increased print book sales
Free or not free? Does giving away books make business sense?
Many indie authors and small publishers are using the free book model to increase market share and sales. Does this strategy really work? One set of researchers, John Hilton III and David Wiley, published a peer-reviewed a paper on The Short-Term Influence of Free Digital Versions of Books on Print Sales. This papper was published in 2010 but its results are influential today if your're considering making your books free.
Hilton and Wiley wanted to know if giving away free e-books would influence the sales of paper books. Result: they found a correlation between a free e-book distribution and increased print sales.
In three of four book categories, distributing free digital versions helped increase paper book sales. Those categories were: non fiction books, science fiction/fantasy books, and Random House books.
In one category, free e-books did not help increase paper book sales. This category is “books published by Tor Books.” The findings here may be skewed because of the type of promotion Tor Books offered. For most of the titles, the introduction of paperback editions preceded the free e-book by only a few weeks. That bumped up the number of paper book sales right before the free e-book was distributed. So in this case, Tor wasn’t using the free e-books to introduce a new book to market. And it probably wasn’t a good sample for this type of study.
Still, this research shows that today e-book promotions can help the sale of traditional books. Will this type of research help traditional publishers pay more heed to e-books? Surely, because it shows how e-books can improve the bottom line.