(This article only discusses two platforms: Goodreads and Amazon. I’m sure other platforms are similar.)
The short answer is, yes. Goodreads has quite an extensive list of ‘readers’ that have hundreds, if not thousands, of electronic books in their ‘to read’ list. Like most new authors, I joined Goodreads in the hope of reaching a group of readers. Initially, I was happy to use their platform and even believe they can make it better. However, with Goodreads I couldn’t make a dime directly from their website. I reluctantly removed myself from Goodreads after they answered a question I posed. I asked them how someone can have that many books on their read list and their answer essentially was, if you’re on lists it boosts your exposure. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen for me. I’m sure Goodreads would say its my fault for not garnering tons of followers or not using all their tools. That’s alright, we just weren’t a good fit. I’ll only add that libraries limit the number you may borrow along with a time limit you may keep them.
Amazon sort of does the same thing with their Kindle Unlimited program (KU), but not to the same extreme. For $9.99 monthly, you can join KU and put up to ten books at once in your account. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but you can swap them for ten more at any time whether read or not. The author also must give Amazon exclusivity (KDP Select) to their book for periods of 90 days. Say what? Hold on, it’s not as bad as it seems. In July 2015, Amazon started paying authors royalty for pages of a book that customers read. I believe it comes from the pool of money they collect for KU fees. Since its inception, the pool has been consistent and yields about a half-cent per page read. Assuming your entire book is read, and depending on the length, you may be able to do as well as selling it outright. Of course, if your book sucks….
Why are so many people collecting eBooks? Mostly, because they’re FREE. Did I say that nasty word? FREE can have advantages if you have more than one of something to give. The premise is to give one free in the hope of selling the other. I call it GOBO (get one free and buy one).Clever, huh? Maybe not so—I’ve had tremendous success giving away books. It’s the other part of GOBO that hasn’t done as well.
The experts say never has it been so important to have a great book cover and book blurb. True, but it’s a two-edged sword. A great cover also catches those trolling the word FREE, so they can put that great cover and blurb into their ‘to read’ list.
So, what’s an author to do? You can either pound your head against the wall or hope that you’re funny enough that readers say, “What the hell, I may as well give this author a shot.” So, please, my head is hurting enough.