Secret Weapon in the eBook Price Wars

A reporter asked me if I was worried about possible price increases in all Kindle books from Macmillan publishers. And I said no — because most of the books I read on my Kindle are free!

And I’m not the only one…

Look at Amazon’s list of their best-selling Kindle books. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is actually in the top 10 — 120 years after it was published — and “Treasure Island” is #24. In the top 100 you’ll see Jules Verne, Oscar Wilde, Dostoyevsky and H.G. Wells — plus several books by Jane Austen and other classics. There’s also two books by Leo Tolstoy, the original “Little Women”, Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”

And that’s just in the top 100! I’ve seen other classics with a sales rank just below that, so I know other Kindle owners are “buying” free books as well. The list of free books on my own Kindle fills up nearly three pages. Curious? Here’s a quick sample….

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper
The Story of a Mine (by Bret Harte)
The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne
The Autobiography of Ben Franklin
A Short History of the United States (a classic history text)
Two Years Before the Mast by Henry Dana

Maybe it’s the dirty secret about the popularity of digital readers. A traditional bookstore will still charge you for a hard copy of a classic. But on digital readers, they’re all free. And (judging from Amazon’s best-seller list) the classics are already extremely popular.

Now I’ll admit I don’t know how popular the classics were before, in print editions. But they’ve got to be even more attractive when they’re absolutely cost-free. I’d already started to think that digital readers will change reading as a pastime. But one of the surprising results may also be an increased popularity in the classics!

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