“The idea is simple: instead of paying for a book up front … you instead pay a small fee for each page you read. Only read a quarter of a book? No problem: you’ve only paid for a quarter of it anyway. Of course, it’s unlikely that such a model would ever result in big discounts, but that’s the financial trade-off.”
BookRiot (“Should EBooks Be Pay-As-You-Go?“) weighs in with some additional thoughts. On the one hand, the opportunity to avoid buyers remorse is certainly a win-win for us readers and consumers —
“But would it be good for publishers, authors, and the future of books? I donâ€™t know. I think itâ€™s certainly worth a try, though, and thereâ€™s useful stuff to be learned from how far readers get into a book before they abandon it. In the present â€œbuy a book before you read itâ€ model, publishers donâ€™t really have to care if readers like or finish the bookâ€“they just have to get you interested enough to want to buy it. If, hypothetically, Total BooXâ€™s attempt to invert the model was successful in moving all ebook sales to the pay-as-you-go plan, publishers and authors would have to produce material that kept readers engaged all the way through in order to earn a full payday. Could they afford to do that? What would happen ifÂ authors started tailoringÂ books to what they knew of readersâ€™ habits and interests?Â Would the overall quality ofÂ books improve and lead to an increase in reader satisfaction?”
These are all good questions. In general, diversity in the marketplace is always a good thing — and the idea of giving book readers another option than a $14.99 ebook is certainly worth a try.
Lots of people expected ebook prices to come down (it hasn’t happened, New York Times: “Little Sign of a Predicted E-Book Price War“), and why should there be? Ebook sales are robust, so there is little incentive to offer lower prices at the moment.
Speaking of diversity, TechCrunch also reported earlier this year on another startup venture, with similar aims that has gained some traction with publishers: “ValoBox Launches Pay-As-You-Go eBook Offering; Oâ€™Reilly Media, Guardian Books & Other Publishers Sign On.”
TotalBooXÂ (“BooX” as in “books”) andÂ ValoBox, besides having terrible, terrible names, present a creative approach to the large and vexing question of how to make ebooks: a) affordable for readers and b) sustainable for publishers. I hope pay-as-you-go does work. I’ve been an advocate of a subscription-based ebook model for some time now.
This all reminded me ofÂ the Stephen King experiment which is something of a primogenitor for these new ebook pricing ideas.