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What if the Kindle were free?

What would happen to print and e-book sales if the Kindle e-reader were distributed for free? The idea that e-readers could come with no cost in the near future isn’t out of the question, given that Kindle prices are dropping precipitously – today, the cheapest (ad-supported) Kindle costs only $79 in the U.S., down from $359 in 2009.

Bloggers and tech sites have speculated about free Kindles from the beginning, some pegging the date for the change as early as next month. This week, San Francisco Web 2.0 blog GigaOM suggested that free Kindles could be a good thing for writers.

For example, content like Kindle Singles – “not-quite-books [that] can be written and uploaded by anyone” – could get greater exposure if more people owned a Kindle. From GigaOM:

Offering a free – or ad-supported – Kindle would presumably just provide even more of an avenue for these kinds of books to reach readers, and that in turn could (theoretically at least) make it possible for more writers to make a living from their writing.

There’s also the argument that free Kindles could boost the use of new apps and services – for a price. GigaOM writes:

A free Kindle could be just the beginning of an explosion of book-like content from Amazon and others: The company is already talking about a “Netflix for books” that would offer content for a monthly fee. Why not offer a subscription to an author, so I can automatically get whatever he or she writes, regardless of length or format? … I’d be willing to bet more people would read more as a result.

  • Paul

    Given Amazon’s behaviour in the past, the most likely result would be a virtual Amazon monopoly on e-book sales (since they use a proprietary format), which they would then abuse by issuing ultimatums to publishers regarding prices and revenue shares.

  • Michael Neill

    So, this also assumes they you are eager for one or possibly two companies to control the distribution of all reading. All the other channels will be diminished until they expire. Think Apple and their so-called wonderful and incredible stronghold on music, except, at least with music, artists can tour to earn their living. Think of all the innovation that diversity brings with with it. All said though, I pretty much agree that a free Kindle is on the horizon. I just don’t consider this a benefit to an industry that was not that broken to start with. For decades access to reading has been plentiful and affordable. How many more books can one person possibly digest? And access and visibility to all those books was not dictated by just one or two companies.

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