We’ve never really wanted to bargain hunt for our users, primarily because we don’t think it’s in our long-term interest to point out free titles, even when they’re lendable.
First of all, doing so arguably sends a bad message to authors, and we don’t want to do that.
We’re also now learning that snapping up free books may not be a particularly wise move, if the goal is to build up a catalogue of lendable titles, on the cheap. Despite this, we’ve definitely seen other services encourage readers to snag any and all free books because — even if they’re free today — they might not be tomorrow.
Makes sense, right? A free book today is a hot lendable commodity tomorrow — when it’s no longer free.
Except, what if Amazon catches on and starts dumping all those free editions from their catalogue?
Due to the way lends are handled, if a book isn’t listed in Amazon’s system — even if it was lendable at the time of the “free” promotion — it will be impossible to ever lend that book.
We’re starting to see evidence that this may, in fact, be happening. One Lendler let us know that five books, all obtained during free promotional periods, now lead to dead product pages.
Not only is there a new edition (still lendable, fortunately) with a new price, the free edition has simply vanished.
W.P. Kinsella’s “Shoeless Joe” is a great example. Try searching for it on Lendle.
Two results come up. Attempting to buy the first result leads to a dead page on Amazon. The second result works fine. Those who own the first book can no longer lend it, either through Lendle, or through any other means.
We have to wonder if Amazon is doing this in reaction to sites which are actively encouraging thousands of users to scoop up free books? We won’t be especially surprised if it turns out they’re attempting to close off this loophole.
Those promotions are there to bring a burst of exposure to an author. They’re not there so that people can stock up on lend credits in order to borrow books which actually do cost money.
We’re certainly not saying it’s wrong to grab free books when you see them; we just want you to be aware that it’s looking more and more likely that today’s bargain may not always be tomorrow’s lendable book.
If you notice your free copy go dead, we humbly suggest buying a new edition. If you liked the book, and you want to lend it — why not reward the author with a purchase?