Amazon sent out a communique to its affiliates stating that as of March 1, if it determines that the affiliate is primarily involved in touting free ebooks, or it has over 20K downloads of free ebooks through its affiliate links, it is ineligible to receive payment for that month.
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That means that all the sites that have sprung up to push free ebooks will now fade away. Unless they don’t care about the affiliate revenues. Which some might not. But the lion’s share will. So their business model just collapsed.
[***UPDATE*** Here is the actual language of the change to the Amazon TOC – I have discovered an interesting loophole that could be exploited by the free sites to remain compliant and still go about their business:
“In addition, notwithstanding the advertising fee rates described on this page or anything to the contrary contained in this Operating Agreement, if we determine you are primarily promoting free Kindle eBooks (i.e., eBooks for which the customer purchase price is $0.00), YOU WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE TO EARN ANY ADVERTISING FEES DURING ANY MONTH IN WHICH YOU MEET THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS:
(a) 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links; and
(b) At least 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links are free Kindle eBooks.”
What they could do is just do all free books through NON-AFFILIATE links! Because the verbiage specifically calls out Special Links. So just use non-special (i.e. ordinary links) for the free books and you’ve complied.***]
What has the reaction been? From readers, it’s mostly akin to taking a bottle away from a drunk – they don’t like it. Most don’t seem to understand that there will still be free ebooks – they are responding as though Amazon has stopped allowing free ebooks. That’s not the case. But no matter how often they are told, most still keep reacting the same way: “It’s an outrage! Bad Amazon!!!”
Here’s my take. Free content will still be available. You will just have to spend a minute of your precious time finding it. Instead of having it nicely delivered to you on a silver platter, you’ll actually have to invest a tiny amount of effort. Now, I know, to a populace that is hooked on entitlements, any time you propose that those receiving the benefit have to work to get it, the howling rivals a wolf pack at midnight. Guess what? You want free crap, you’ll have to spend some time to find it. Boo hoo. Poor you.
As an author, I celebrate Amazon trying to pull away from free. They created a monster. And they know that free is impacting their sales. They’re not stupid. Free has created an environment where there is a whole sub-culture of readers who believe that they shouldn’t have to pay for books – that the author, the editor, the formatter, the proofreader and the cover designer should all work for free, as should Amazon. And Amazon is basically trying to close the door on that notion. Bravo Amazon, I say. It was fun while it lasted, but the ride is over.
I have built a large following using free. I heart free. Or rather, I did. I started turning less positive on free last late spring, if you go back and read my blogs – it occurred to me that while I was personally working the free thing about as well as it had ever been worked, that it was hurting the overall market as a whole. In short, it’s a bad long term strategy, except for on the first book in a series.
And before I get countless agonized comments about how free has allowed you to discover new authors, myself included, go back and reread the part about free still being available. As in, you can still discover new authors by reading their free books. But you’ll need to do some work. That’s the part everyone is crying about. The work part. Because a tiny amount of difficulty has been introduced in order to obtain something for free. Repeat. You can still get free books. That hasn’t changed.
So my take is that this is a strong positive for authors, and for Amazon. Because guess what? New authors were getting discovered before the free promos, and they will still get discovered after they’re a thing of the past. The glut of free material has helped some, but it has hurt most. Now authors have to go back to traditional, old fashioned marketing – they can no longer spend 20 minutes alerting 15 sites about their freebie and call it a day.
And the freeloaders will have to put in a little effort to get their free lunch. My hunch is that Amazon knows full well that most people are too lazy to exert the slightest effort, so free will drop off dramatically. Which is what they’re after, I believe.
Having said that, did I mention that JET is currently FREE on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Apple, etc.? I’d hurry and pick up a copy, because soon, you won’t be able to find it easily for free, either.