I've noticed that a few book publishers (and some authors!) have taken the step of putting the first book of a series out for free in eBook format. Seemed like a very bright idea; you don't really lose much dough in the dissemination, and if folk like the book and want more, well, at least the local used book store gets a sale. ;^)

Not so fast, unfortunately. EOS has put a number of books available for free download, even in Mobipocket Reader format, which I particularly enjoy, but now have released a first volume in something they call the "Browse Inside widget" with a sunset date:

AND -- for any readers who love Bujold's other work but haven't yet given this series a try -- we're making the first volume, Beguilement, 100% available for the month of January (1/6 -- 1/27). Click through here for the Browse Inside widget -- all 361 pages available FREE, through your PC!

This is double edged, I think. I take a while to get around to the books I'd like to read, so being able to download now and read later means I might actually make it. Yet I have so many books on the eBook shelf, it's going to take a while before I'm looking for another material (ie, paper) book to buy unless it's danged good -- for example, embarrassingly, I just finished Frank and Brian Herbert's Man of Two Worlds last month, a book I started in the summer (though I did read Gaiman's Ananzi Boys in three days this summer; it's bliss to have a space to read with the speed I used to have the time for in secondary school).

I'm all for free books, even in proprietary formats. I'm just sad to see EOS thinking about, possibly, going from releasing free ebooks with no expiration date to going with something more like the Disney DVD vault route with a quick window of access. The day more people read ebooks via subscription-style billing (which I'd posit is the far end of this "vault" style spectrum) than own what they read will be an awfully sad day for literature in general.