Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
A while back, I wondered whether the pay-what-you-want pricing model could work for the publishing industry. When I wrote my original post, StoryBundle had just announced its plans to launch a new website that would sell bundled works by independent authors, and readers could pay what they decided was a fair price for the collection of works (similar to the Humble Bundle model).
Six months later, the highly publicized StoryBundle is now in business, but, surprise! It’s not the only pay-what-you-want-ebook service in the game this month. In fact, a company called Snug Nugget (tagline: “buy awesome E-books and help charity”) beat them to the launch. (And, as an aside, I am apparently not the only one a little confused by the origin of Snug Nugget’s name.)
Snug Nugget and StoryBundle are similar in that readers can determine what price they’d like to pay for a group of books, and the sites will donate a portion of that purchase to a charity. Titles are DRM-free on both sites. There are differences, of course. For example, Snug Nugget features a video book trailer for the featured titles and donates 14.3 percent to one charity (Book Aid International), whereas StoryBundle allows the buyer to decide the split between StoryBundle and the independent authors, along with a choice of two charities to which you will donate 10% of your purchase. Additionally, StoryBundle has a few extra features. At the end of the bundle, readers can participate in author chats, and buyers who pay at least $7 for the group of books will receive two bonus titles.
At the time of writing this post, StoryBundle has sold over 2,000 bundles, with a little more than 12 days to go. Snug Nugget, which had a much quieter release, has about eight days left for its first collection, with about 111 bundles sold.
So, is this a viable model? I think it’s too soon to tell, and I still stand by my original opinion that something like this seems to work better for genre fiction. However, I do think these sites offer a nice avenue for indie authors who didn’t publish and market their titles through traditional channels.
I am also intrigued by something StoryBundle mentions in their FAQ page:
I like physical books. Can I get the bundle in paperback form?
As of right now, you can’t. However, we know some people really love indie authors but also love holding paper in their hands. We get it, so we’re currently investigating services to see if there’s a good way for us to get you both the digital versions as well as the analog versions in future bundles.
To me, ebooks lend themselves so naturally to bundling. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be under a pay-what-you-want model, either. For example, popular magazines bundle print and digital editions for subscribers, and earlier this week, PW reported that UK publishing imprint Angry Robot experimented with print and ebook bundling at an independent bookstore and saw an increase in sales.
I’m intrigued to see what the future has in store for ebook bundling, and I’m equally curious to see the end result for StoryBundle and Snug Nugget. What do you think? Do you expect we’ll see more of these bundling trends cropping up in mainstream avenues? Or do you think ebook bundling will forever remain in pay-what-you-want models for more independent, off-the-radar titles?