What are people reading these days? The great free e-book experiment

In an insightful post at the We Put Words On Paper blog, Amanda Kimmerly asks “What is the last book you loved?” Her question comes from recent attendance at a writers’ festival here in Austin, Texas, and the observation that most of the people interested enough to show up were of the 40+ persuasion, so she’s curious to know what young readers are reading, in an effort to understand the digital market and what prompts someone to shell out hard-earned buckazoids for dead trees in this age of freebie e-books.

I think it’s a fair question. At what point do you figure the $1.99 (or free) e-book is worth reading, even if it’s by an unknown author? I know that there’s an entire Amazon Kindle list of “top-selling” free e-books, and I peruse them on occasion to see if there are any authors I’m familiar with. Usually, there aren’t. So I don’t download, even though all of those books are free. Is that weird? Or is it indicative of the fact that people don’t like to take risks with their time, even if money is eliminated from the equation?

To this end, I have begun an experiment. I am the proud owner of a Kindle, and an avid reader. But I am also cheap thrifty, and tend to read more books in physical format, as the library is 100% free and many of the e-books I’d love to download are not. However, there is the free best-seller’s list, as mentioned, and the fact that Amazon.com has recently begun an excellent program of allowing Kindle readers to “borrow” e-books from one another (which the helpful and easy-to-use site BookLending.com takes advantage of, by connecting “borrowers” with “lenders” of these e-books). Combining my love of reading with my love of thriftiness, I am going to endeavor to read the top 10 free books on Amazon over the next few weeks (or months) and report back on the unknown authors I encounter.

Some ground rules:

    1. Books that are currently in the public domain, thanks to expired copyrights, will not be considered for this experiment, as the goal is to read NEW authors, not CLASSIC authors (sorry, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen; better luck next time!)
    2. Only free Kindle books found in the official Amazon “Top 100 Free” category, or available via BookLending.com for borrowing privileges, will be considered
    3. I will also include any free e-books that I’ve obtained from independent publishers or authors, but will be sure to note whether these are review copies (i.e. others have to pay for them) or free at a certain website for a limited time

      Let the experiment in finding new authors writing worthwhile e-books begin!