E-Reading

Why Bundling is the Best, Safest and Cheapest Way to Discover Books

Reading Technologies is a series about developments in digital reading and related technologies. Over several weeks, we’ll have guest posts from a variety of people on the cutting edge of e-reading, interactive media, and digital publishing.

This installment is from Jason Chen. Jason, formerly of Gizmodo, is launching StoryBundle, a service that will bundle and sell high quality indie books for a low price that you choose, all DRM-free. He tweets at @diskopo.

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Finding popular works like The Hunger Games is extremely easy: you look on bestseller lists. But what if you want something that hasn’t already made hundreds of thousands of dollars and been read by everyone you know? What if you want an indie book? That’s much harder.

The average book recommendation engine is decent enough to fill the need, provided that you list, not to mention remember, everything you’ve read for the last ten years. However, indie books typically only have a handful of reviews, and would you really trust the lone Amazon user that gave an indie book 4 stars enough to spend $3 on it? Maybe.

That’s where bundling comes in. Here’s how bundling solves both of these problems.

I created StoryBundle as a place where you can get quality indie books at an extremely low price. The concept of bundling is that you combine a pack of books, typically about five or so, into one bundle to be sold together. (Obvious, right?) The reader gets all five at once—you can’t separate them—for any price. Any price! That means if you want to pay one dollar, three dollars or even ten dollars for five books, you can! By buying these books together as a set, you’re lowering the chances that you end up with a dud, because the likelihood is that there’s at least one in five that will be in your wheelhouse.

How do I know bundling works? It’s already been proven to work extremely well in the independent gaming world. If you look at bundles like Indie Royale and Humble Bundle, they’ve been selling independent games on the same pay-what-you-want basis to tens and hundreds of thousands of customers per bundle. They’ve also shown that even though people can pay very little if they so choose, most buyers will end up paying a fair amount to the authors. It’s fair to the reader and to the author, and of course a portion of each sale goes to charity as well.

Price isn’t going to be the only selling point at StoryBundle; we’re going to have various outlets, authors and noted people choose quality books for inclusion. There’s no sense paying any price, no matter how low, if the titles are lousy. This is a major hurdle that bundles will have to clear, and it’s up to the people who choose titles to do a good job. I think StoryBundle is going to do a good job, but that’s up to the readers to decide.

Of course, when you do get into bundling, you can get some really, really fun and clever ways of grouping books together. There are the obvious genre bundles like a pack of vampire books, romance books, Sci-Fi books and even self-help books. But how about comic books? Or travel guides? Or a series of books chosen specifically as a curriculum to teach you how to program, draw, cook or repair your home? By going beyond the traditional buy-one-get-one model, you can open up tons of these bundles!

There are also added incentives for readers to chip in a little more for each bundle. Say, for example, the average price of a bundle were $5. We can make a bundle where if you pay double the average, $10 (or whatever the current average is), you get a free audiobook copy of every book included in the bundle. Rather than buying the same book twice, which is essentially what you’re forced to do with audiobooks and ebooks nowadays, you get both at an extremely low fee. Or, if we include part one of a trilogy in the bundle, we can include part two as a bonus. This way, you’re paying a little more now to make sure you can get the next part of the story if you like it, kind of like insurance. There are so many exciting things bundles can do that we haven’t seen on the book marketplace yet.

As a reader, the thought of paying a low price for a chunk of good content is thrilling, which is exactly the reason why I started StoryBundle. If I could pay a few bucks—about the price of maybe two of the titles separately—and get five or six books? Sign me up. I’m first in line.