Neil Gaiman fielded a question from an independent bookseller who was surprised by some of Gaiman’s recent comments regarding free books. The bookseller wondered if offering books for free wouldn’t be preventing readers from buying the books from booksellers. In honor of his blog’s seventh anniversary, Gaiman allowed readers to vote for which book in his catalog they’d like to see available online for a month, and readers selected American Gods.
Gaiman’s original words really spoke to me as an English teacher: “The problem isn’t that books are given away or that people read books they haven’t paid for. The problem is that the majority of people don’t read for pleasure.”
Gaiman’s well-reasoned response to the bookseller is worth a read. As Gaiman astutely noted in another post, “Word of mouth is still the best tool for selling books.” I can’t remember how many times good reviews on Amazon or from a friend or colleague or even a TV or radio program have made me buy a book I might not have purchased otherwise.
A few times I have lent books to students only to never have them returned. While I miss my books, in a way, it’s almost better if they aren’t returned. It means they were really enjoyed, and I would rather put that in my students’ hands than have my book. It looks like Neil Gaiman feels the same way.