Smashwords is one of the growing number of online ebook retailers. Ebooks represent the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry, and they may well represent how future generations read “books”.
What sets Smashwords apart from other retailers, though, is their pricing options. Instead of assigning a fixed price to their ebooks, they allow authors and publishers three options. First, of course, is the fixed price, set by the author or publisher (casually browsing the site, I find that most ebooks are priced at about $5 or $6). The second option is to give the book away for free — an option that’s not available at Amazon’s Kindle store. The third option — and the one that I like best — is to allow the readers to assign their own price (including free) to the ebook when they purchase it. This set-your-own-price option is one that musicians like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have experimented with, and it’s an option that has worked out well for them.
Smashwords also offers ebooks in a variety of formats (such as PDF, EPUB, LRF, RTF, PDB, and the Kindle-compatible .mobi) instead of locking buyers into a single, often proprietary and DRM-laden, format like some retailers attempt to do.
Because of the variety of formats and the ability for readers to set their own price of “free,” I’ve made some changes at my own website where I offer free ebook downloads. I still offer free PDF and HTML versions of my novels direct from my website, but for all of the other formats, I’m directing readers on to my Smashwords pages. I’ve worried about whether the PDB and PRC and EPUB formatted ebooks I created myself would look all right when viewed from whatever devices readers choose to view them. I have a lot more faith in Smashwords to produce quality ebook downloads.
And so (and here’s my crass commerical plug), I hope everyone visiting this blog will check out my novels. Whether you want to pay for them or not is your decision, but I hope you’ll give them a chance.