Why are you paying for e-books?
That may sound like a rhetorical question, but if you are paying for e-books, you are doing it by choice.
Project Gutenberg has approximately 38,000 free e-books available in the USA.
Let’s say you read three books a week…the Project Gutenberg books alone will last you more than 243 years.
Believe me, the availability of free e-books is concerning some publishers and authors.
The question becomes very serious: when you do pay money for e-books, why do you do it?
I’m going to give you some hypotheses, and I’m going to let you tell me (and the world) why you pay for e-books…if you do.
First, let’s establish what we mean by “paying for” the e-book.
I only want you to count that you are paying for a book if you pay money for that specific book. If you pay for the ability to get the books for no additional cost, don’t count it as paying for it.
For example, if you pay property taxes in your town which go in part to fund your public library and then you get e-books from your public library with no additional cost, don’t count it as paying for it.
If you get books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, don’t count the $79 a year you pay to be a Prime member as paying for the book.
If someone else buys the books on the account to which your device is registered, don’t count it as paying for it. Even if you kick money in once a month with a gift certificate into a general pool for the account, don’t count it as paying for it.
What I’m hoping to do in this post is give authors and publishers some insight into what makes you pay for a specific book…not for books in general. What is it that gets you to say, “I’ll pay ninety-nine cents…or $2.99 or $9.99 or more,” for this particular book.
Authors and publishers can use that. They can’t do much to encourage you to pay an annual fee for Prime in hopes that you’ll use it to borrow one of their books.
Okay, before we get into my idea on why you might do it, let’s get some idea of how often you choose to pay. I’m going to ask this as two different questions: how often do you pay for the books you get for your Kindle, and how often do you pay for the books you read on your Kindle.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if people are far more likely to read the books for which they’ve paid than the free ones. I’d guess that’s the case with me, although I’ve never really measured it.
Here’s the getting poll:
Here’s the reading poll:
Now, let’s take a look at some possible reasons you’ll lay out that hard-earned cash (or, um, gift certificate).
That new e-book smell
No question, people like “new”. Some want to read a book before anybody else does. They are willing to pay a premium for that (for example, they might have bought the hardback rather than waiting for the paperback for that reason). If I think that something is complex and that I might hear about a surprising element before I read it/see it, I want to do that right away. I don’t want to hear about something on the news or from a friend before I’ve discovered it myself. This can be especially true with non-fiction: the value of it might be less later as the situation changes in the future. This is also where I’d count the “next book in the series”.
Other people are reading it now
The book may not be new, but maybe people in your social group are reading it. You want to participate in the conversation, so you don’t want to wait, even though you could get it free or cheaper. Social media might impact that this one…getting a tweet on a book might encourage a purchase.
You are giving it as a gift
Many people want to give something that has monetary value when they give a gift. They may even have a budget in mind. Even if a free book might be as good as a ten dollar book, giving the free one might seem…inappropriate. If it’s a free book, you could just tell the person about it. The recipient might be less likely to get it if it isn’t free…which increases the novelty of the gift. I’ve done this: I’ve bought an e-book for a family member as a gift when I wouldn’t have bought that same book for myself…even though I would have liked it.
You want to support the author
I think this impacts quite a few purchases. I know people sometimes shopped in my bookstore because they liked me (and my staff). I’m sure people subscribe to this blog through the Kindle store just to support me (even though they might be reading it through a different channel), and I do really appreciate that. Extending this, you might also be supporting a cause or some other entity. I may buy a book on a topic I consider worthwhile to help support that cause in the market.
You think it costs less now than it will later
If there is something that you think you might want and that won’t ever be free (or at least, not for a long time), you might buy it because it is on sale. That’s how the Kindle Daily Deal works for me sometimes. If a ten dollar book is on sale for ninety-nine cents, I might buy it…even though I probably would have never bought it at tend dollars. I know that’s just psychological, it’s not really al logical way to make a decision.
I think those are five of the big drivers, and I’m going to poll you on those:
I’m sure there are other reasons, and I’d be interested to hear them by having you comment on this post.
So…why are you paying for e-books?
Update: thanks to reader Arni Vidar for catching an error, which has now been corrected!
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.