Should EBooks Be Pay-As-You-Go?

total booxWhat if you never had to endure the buyer’s remorse of abandoning a book and wishing you could get back the dollars you spent on a disappointing read? What if, instead, you only had to pay for the pages you actually read?

Total BooX, a publishing startup out of Tel Aviv, is attempting to give you the option. The company, set to launch later this month, offers users free access to all the ebooks in their digital warehouse (the collection currently exceeds 10,000) and charges proportionally. If you only read 10% of the book, you pay 10% of the list price. Like to skip around in short story collections or only want to read certain essays in an anthology? Only pay for the ones you lay eyes on. And once you’ve paid for a page, it’s yours.

The benefits to readers seem obvious. You can try new books and authors and explore new genres without the fear of “but what if I pay for it and then hate it?” You’ll have access to interesting analytics about your reading habits and recommendations tailored to your preferences. And sure, you’ll be part of the “powerful marketing channel” Total BooX is offering publishers, but if you’re reading ebooks on other devices, you already are. At least this way, you get to benefit from some of the data they’re collecting about you! I think this is pretty damn interesting.

But would it be good for publishers, authors, and the future of books? I don’t know. I think it’s certainly worth a try, though, and there’s useful stuff to be learned from how far readers get into a book before they abandon it. In the present “buy a book before you read it” model, publishers don’t really have to care if readers like or finish the book–they just have to get you interested enough to want to buy it. If, hypothetically, Total BooX’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 if authors started tailoring books to what they knew of readers’ habits and interests? Would the overall quality of books improve and lead to an increase in reader satisfaction?

I have ALL THE QUESTIONS about this and will be watching closely. What about you? Would you try a pay-as-you-go model for ereading? What questions or concerns do you have?