Seth Godin has done it again -- spread an idea epidemic with his free ebooks on web design and blogging.
Unleashing the Ideavirus, Godin's manifesto on word-of-mouse marketing is the most downloaded book of all time. And, to borrow his phrase, "sneezers" spread the epidemic world-wide. But Godin himself raises an interesting question. He says
The first lesson is that free ebooks spread FORTY times faster than ebooks that cost money. That should give you pause if your goal is to spread your ideas.But what if your goal is to sell books?! Not just ebooks, but good old paper ones.
I think the key question is "What is your primary goal?" Do you mainly write (or publish) books to spread the ideas? Are you using books to promote yourself? Or are you an author making your living from book sales?
Which leads to another question: Does giving away ebooks for free help sell the print edition of the book? What's your experience with giving away free book downloads? Does it help or hurt book sales?
Does viral marketing sell books?