Free Electronic Hugo Nominees Are Expensive!

I’ve been laughing quietly at myself about this since before Westercon. The joke is on me, and I’m ready to confess.

Even if it’s supposed to be good marketing, fans are tempted to feel like they’ve put one over on the universe when somebody gives them free electronic copies of four Hugo-nominated novels. I do, anyway. I thought: How great is this, I’m saving fifty or sixty bucks, and the most convenient place to have the text is on my computer.

I felt so confident about getting everything read before the voting deadline that I told Kathryn Daugherty she could put me on a panel at Westercon to discuss all the Hugo nominees.

Then as weeks slipped by, I found that I needed all my time in front of the computer to do my work, or complete the new File 770. And I didn’t really want to spend any more hours in front of the machine reading these novels. 

On the other hand, there were times I needed to wait for a doctor’s appointment, or watch my daughter play at the park, when it would be very easy to pass the time reading a book.

So with the Hugo deadline bearing down, and not wanting to embarrass myself in front of Kathryn Daugherty and Chris Garcia on our panel at Westercon, I bought copies of all five nominated novels and read them. And had a great time discussing them at Westercon.

Jerry Pournelle wrote last year that “Eric Flint of Baen Books has looked at this closely, and [and he finds no] harm comes from electronic publication of a book available in print… if there is an effect it is probably positive: that is, someone begins to read a work of fiction (authorized or pirated, it makes no difference) and may well be influenced to go buy a copy. We know that happens because people tell us so.” Now I’m one of the statistics, and I still can’t really explain it.

How could this have happened to me, an experienced, canny fan? After I worked the universe for four free novels? I’m melting, melting….. 

Update 7/18/2008: By coincidence, Pournelle has just posted an expanded discussion of Flint’s anslsysis at Chaos Manor Reviews – about halfway down the Mailbag.