Last year, Random House quietly gave away Dan Brown’s bestselling novel, The Da Vinci Code, for free for one week. Millions of readers were unaware of the week-long giveaway.
A select group of readers did take advantage of the promotion, though. They were using BookBub, a daily email that alerts readers to free and deeply discounted ebooks that are available for a limited time. BookBub notified nearly 1 million readers of the free Da Vinci Code deal last spring.
“It’s the Groupon of books,” Dominique Raccah, the publisher of Sourcebooks, told The New York Times about deal sites like BookBub. “For the consumer, it’s new, it’s interesting. It’s a deal and there isn’t much risk. And it works.”
Why did Random House give away a bestselling ebook that usually retails for $9.99? The company’s goal was to hook new readers on Brown’s thrillers and drum up interest in his new book, Inferno. The free ebook even included the prologue and first chapter of Inferno.
“It makes it almost irresistible,” Liz Perl, Simon & Schuster’s senior vice president explained to the The New York Times. “We’re lowering the bar for you to sample somebody new.”
Book lovers have now become practically obsessed with BookBub. In many cases, they’ve downloaded hundreds of books that publishers and authors have promoted on the site.
“I now have more books than I can read in a lifetime,” said Suzie Miller of Auburn, Wash. She said she has downloaded more than 350 free books using the service.
For readers, part of the appeal of BookBub is that it does not list every single free ebook on the market. Instead, BookBub’s expert editorial team selectively curates only the highest-quality ebooks to feature in their email and on their website. In most cases, the deals can be purchased for any ereading device, including Kindle, Apple, Android, and Windows.
Readers can select which genres they would like to receive, so each email is matched to their preferences. BookBub features more than two dozen genres of books, including mystery, romance, literary, historical fiction, nonfiction and more.
With millions of readers using BookBub’s service, this type of promotional concept seems to be resonating with both publishers and readers alike.