It seems like yesterday when free ebooks were all the rage. Not only were they a good way to get an entire novel for nothing at all, perhaps more importantly free books were considered and widely publicized as the best way for indie writers to gain recognition. It was a revolution of sorts, a upraised finger to the sneering publishing houses who had rejected the work of hard working writers for so long. In a wave of propaganda and highly touted success stories, writers were convinced to take their work that they'd poured countless hours into and give it away for free or a few cents more.
And here we are.
There is an endless sea of free ebooks at the disposal of anyone who wants one or as many as they can download. Books of every subject and genre imaginable by anyone and everyone who's ever had a story in their head or been told by grandma that their stories are just dandy. It seems like the reader's paradise. So many books, so many choices. Why would anyone have to purchase a novel again? Easy answer.
Because the vast majority of these books suck.
Before you leap down my throat, that's more than just my singular opinion. Sure, I've downloaded a number of free books and realized that fact, but all you have to do is visit an online board or read any of the number of blogs on the subject and find a vast number of disgruntled readers and reviewers who feel the same way. And it only makes sense. When institutions that were once the guardians of good writing get brushed aside, it's only natural to expect that the rabble will storm the gates and flood the streets with ware that never would have seen the light of day otherwise.
And this isn't an indictment of indie writing. Yes, many of the agents and publishing companies have held on to ancient tradition for too long, ignoring some fine writers in the name of expertise and experience only to have their conventions flipped when the same writers make a killing publishing independently. But as widely spread as those stories are, the truth is that for every good indie writer there is, hundreds more are busy cluttering up the landscape with stories (I really can't call them novels) that are poorly conceived and executed even worse. And let's not even mention the ones that have seen little or no editing, proofreading, or even a spell check it seems.
It's a Gordian knot that might give even Alexander pause. Because there are many writers who take so much pride in their hard work, put in so many hours to make sure that their product is as good or better than anything published traditionally. Yet it seems as if that particular caliber of author is vastly outnumbered by the ever increasing flood of writers who have no business... in the business.
It seems as though the free ebook has lost its novelty and now has the same reputation of the clearance books that inhabit the racks outside the doors of the local bookstore. Books so bad that they're not worth even taking up indoor space. You might find a gem if you look long and hard, but in reality most people won't give them a second glance as they make their way inside were the 'real' books are.
I think eventually writers will see that the business side of writing involves a lot more than a free listing and a momentary jump in sales, if that even occurs. Just like any business, it takes a lot of work to make one's work stand out, even if your work is very good. It will be interesting to see how the 'revolution' looks a few years down the road. I firmly believe that those who realize that publishing is a business and works along those lines will still be in the picture if their work is good. As for the others, well, you can't have a revolution without casualties, right?