Why Are Publishers Giving Away Bestselling Books for Free?

Last year, Random House decided to give away Dan Brown’s bestselling novel, The Da Vinci Codefor free for one week. The eBook freebie ran on the 10-year anniversary of The Da Vinci Code, and a few weeks before the release of Brown’s new book, Inferno.

Why did Random House give away a national bestselling eBook that usually retails for $9.99? The promotion was very deliberate, with the goal of hooking new readers on Brown’s thrillers and drumming up interest for Inferno. In fact, the eBook included the prologue and first chapter of Inferno.

However, millions of readers, including avid Brown fans, were not aware of the week-long giveaway.

Enter BookBub. BookBub is a daily email service that alerts readers to limited time promotions of free or deeply discounted eBooks across a variety of platforms. BookBub notified nearly 1 million readers of the free Da Vinci Code deal last spring, and many took advantage.

“It’s the Groupon of books,” Dominique Raccah, the publisher of Sourcebooks, told The New York Times about deal sites like BookBub. “For the consumer, it’s new, it’s interesting. It’s a deal and there isn’t much risk. And it works.”

Publishers and authors discount eBooks for several reasons. For example, in the case of The Da Vinci Code, Random House wanted to prime the pump for the new release of Inferno. Publishers and authors also run free or discounted eBooks to hook readers on a series, or build a following for a new author.

“It makes it almost irresistible,” Liz Perl, Simon & Schuster’s senior vice president explained to the The New York Times. “We’re lowering the bar for you to sample somebody new.”

In order to get the word out on these promotions, publishers and authors feature their deals on sites like BookBub. BookBub is unique in that it does not list every single free eBook on the market. Instead, BookBub’s expert editorial team selectively curates only the best eBooks to be featured in their email and on their website.

In most cases, the deals can be purchased for any eReading device, including Kindle, iPad, Nook, Kobo, Sony and Android. Additionally, BookBub allows readers to select which genres they would like to receive, so each email is matched to subscriber preferences. With over 2 million readers already using BookBub’s service, it’s clear that this type of promotional concept is one that resonates with both publishers and readers alike.

To find out more about the service, go to www.bookbub.com.