In an effort to promote the latest book in the Star Wars "Legacy of the Force" series, starting at 9am tomorrow (Tuesday, April 29), Del Ray will give out book one Betrayal for free as an audio book, eBook, and PDF download. Betrayal, which was a New York Times Bestseller, is the first book in the series and the free download will be available for two weeks until May 13, when the ninth and final book, Invicible, is released. This is an interesting marketing tactic from Del Ray, which is emulating popular music acts.
The free download, which Del Ray is encouraging users to share, email, and print, will be put online starting tomorrow morning at www.legacyoftheforce.com. It will also be available from a number of major online retailers as a free download, including A1Books.com, Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, Booksense.com, Borders.com, DeepDiscount.com, the Sony eBook Store, Overstock.com, and Powells.com.
It is no surprise that book publishers are trying to find new ways to appeal to readers. We noted in March that offline reading of books is on the decline. Though new forms of book consumption have begun to appear -- such as Amazon's wildly popular Kindle eBook reader -- "free" is an enticing way to get people acclimated to them and a way for publishers to make readers aware of a specific author, title, series, or genre.
Del Ray is taking a page from the music industry by promoting its new Star Wars book via an online giveaway. We wrote a couple of months ago that here is a huge value in awareness for artists and publishers, which is what Del Ray is attempting to build in the Star Wars book brand. The music doppelganger to this marketing ploy is R.E.M. and Pennywise -- both of whom made their new albums available to fans for free a couple of weeks prior to launch, and both of whom saw those albums crack the top 15 on the sales charts. However, like those bands, Star Wars also already has brand recognition, so it will be tough to gauge how many sales actually translate from the online promotion.
"This giveaway is a great way to introduce the legions of Star Wars fans to our books," said Deputy Director of Marketing at the Random House Publishing Group, Christine Cabello in a press release. "We also expect that it will build awareness and excitement for the on-sale date of the final book in the series, Invincible."
Will other book publishers follow suit? Will we ever see a "pay-what-you-want" distribution scheme for books?