Lord of the reads: +5406
Having my work available to read online has certainly been useful recently as while having the Author of the Month slot at Hancock’s website, contributers to his site were able to study my material and enter into discussions having read the work…at least in part. As the work here is historical /technical and to assess the material little sections cannot be taken at random [although some have tried] and sense made of the work as a whole, large sections have to be absorbed.
In this type of work this is more important than with novels as evaluation of a thesis is involved. This is not imaginative work where ‘artists license’ plays a part, it is factual, based upon very extensive research. Hence relevant facts have to be available to those who wish to assess the work.
However, now it has had an airing, in the near future when the facility is available I shall be limiting the amount that is available to read online to suitable chapters, probably to about 60% of the books, sufficient to enable those who examine the samples to get to grips with the ideas portrayed but not for them to read the whole thing.
Let us be honest, an e book version is cheap, very cheap and if someone is not prepared to spend a couple of pounds to get the full works then they are not really interested anyway and as all writers have a bit of an ego we want readers to be those who in fact are interested in what we have to say, whether it is fiction or fact. A book is something that takes a great deal of work to create, it is not a mass produced newspaper that is out of date tomorrow and put together by a whole team of writers, editors and technicians, we have pride in what we achieve, in our individual creations which, be they fact or fiction, are the products of deep and prolonged thinking…we want those efforts appreciated and to be read by those with interest in our productions. So yes…we should limit availability but not too much…we need dangle the intellectual carrot.
I would like to see authors being able to set how much is available to read as a taster. I always think, as Harry says, there should be a carrot. I also agree with what Harry says about having a low cost way of getting into a book but as Anna mentioned I would propose something a little different…
Perhaps rather than a really cheap eBook download readers could buy access on a pay per page basis up until the price of the book is reached.
For example, if there is a book of 300 pages which has a paperback version for £10. Rather than offer a very cheap eBook version at £3 just to provide cheap access so interested readers can continue you could set the eBook price to something respectable like £7 . You then allow readers to read online for 10p a page. When they have spent the £7 they get access to the rest of the book and the downloadable version.
This way readers don’t ever need to pay upfront to get into a book and there is no downside to continuing reading. If they start reading and decide they like it they can buy the downloadable copy or paperback for no more than it would have cost to begin with.
What do you think?
While this seems a logical idea, I feel that the concept of paying to browse runs against the grain as browsing has been free, obviously within limits, since bookshops evolved. This being the case I feel that prospective readers may well be put off not by the cost but by the idea of paying to examine in detail. While today this in fact is the norm with most products, I cannot see it successfully being applied to reading.
Reading is seen by most as entertainment. The programs on TV are getting shorter to allow for trailers of other programs to be inserted in between and these free trailers appear to be getting longer. One pays by having slightly shorter programs but this is not seen on the bill.If one purchases a tool in a DIY store [tool shops with assistants who knew what they were talking about are generally a thing of the past unfortunately], it is wrapped in plastic and frequently unavailable to pick up , feel the balance / weight etc etc. In other words one cannot examine the item properly to correctly ascertain whether it is ideally suitable for you as an individual user. This is something that has developed over a number of years and utilised in numerous places nowadays…all associated, so I am told,with security…in reality more like the packaging industry getting their claws into the market. However while these are practical items that should be available for examination in the hand for weight, feel and quality, words are different.
Words convey ideas, they are ephemeral and cannot be examined in the same way as a screwdriver, saw or plane. Ideas are constructed with words and it is the ideas that are being bought in a book. One needs to unwrap the plastic cover to understand what the thing inside is about…as indeed in an old fashioned tool shop we used to be able to closely examine the tools we were buying. The modern or indeed old fashioned punter will not pay to have the wrapping removed as he /she may not like the product when it is examined closely and ultimately not purchase the item.
I feel that this is the attitude that would prevail if charging to read were to be applied.
Books are bought in conditions comparable to the tools in an old fashioned tool shop, they are freely examined before purchase, but as it takes a long time to read a book in its entirety, browsing should be limited by the shopkeeper/assistant or on the web by what the author has decided is sufficient material to give a good idea of the work’s contents.
My preference is for material to be limited by the author to whatever they feel is appropriate, and I do not pretend that this is easy to ascertain but is a necessary requirement. Books obviously vary in content and type and hence the carrot needs to be of varying sizes for differing material.
Lovely to read your words Harry and I agree 100% with them The only problem that I can see is that it could lead to ‘tasters’ of varying lengths’
Personally I think that about three chapters is enough for a ‘taster’. out of a book with say, 20 chapters. Other may feel that many more are needed but on any site there has to be ground rules. There must be a concensus of opinion as to what constitutes a minimum and maximum of words or chapters. Maybe a few more comments will give rise to general feelings on this subject.
Away on holiday in ‘Gogland’ on Friday and very busy here so I doubt if I shall have time to add anything until I get back in fortnight.
I hope this clarifies matters somewhat.
I feel that the type of work is what denotes how much or how little should be revealed to the public. A novel, for example, is spoilt for a reader if too much is given away too easily while my sort of work requires examples of sound argument and research to be in evidence to establish my credentials. This then has to be followed with examples that are obviously leading in the direction implied in the works description. As the books cover many areas from astronomy to archaeology and metrology and other areas in between including religious myth, many of these need a brief covering.
There cannot be any hard and fast rules regarding length of example material because of different types of work and this inevitably will lead to different lengths of ‘tasters’. If all involved works were of the same type then such a ruling could logically be applied but with varying genres of work seen on site it is impractical for the reasons given above.
Until recently I felt reticent about the reading on site scenario but my recent spot on Graham Hancock’s site has reinforced the value of such availability. The difficult part is choosing precisely what to ‘give away’ as a free morsel and what to restrict to fellow authors on site. His latest offering is a historical novel and he has given a number of chapters to read on site…and it has worked. The skill is knowing just what to reveal and what to keep under wraps…
Ultimately I feel that the choice of how much to reveal should remain with the author, if my work was severely limited recently then few would have been able to make sensible comment and probably folks from USA, Africa and Malaysia would not have been so interested… While it has not led to a lot of sales, it has sparked interest and debate which is what I wanted; it is hoped that this will eventually realise more interest and favourable comments.
With you Harry on this one. The sort of thing I was envisaging was something like 10,000 words minimum. This would allow authors like yourself to put a lot more in a ‘taster’ and be quite sufficiwnt for people like myself to make the point.
Have a good holiday. I shall be in the UK for a few days myself very soon for my Great Grandaughters wedding.
Thanks for the comments – I think that it’s important that there is flexibility for authors when it comes to sharing their work and you’re right Harry, it does often depend on the type of book as to how much or how little you should make available.
However, I also want to stress the fact that many people do simply prefer having a physical book in their hand – especially if it is a long book that will mean some serious eye strain if they read the whole thing on a screen. One of our authors, Alan Baker mentioned to me yesterday (in reference to this post) that he had just had someone buy one of his books on that basis: they started reading it online and then decided they would much prefer to see it in print.
I like Oli’s suggestion of a pay per page model because it has benefits that you lower the barrier to entry i.e. instead of having to decide to commit £5 to read the whole thing before you are sure, you can dip in. I think that there should be a portion of the book that you can browse for free at the beginning, however. Perhaps this model would work better with technical books or textbooks – books where you might want to flick through to the chapter you are most interested in first, rather than only have access to the beginning or the whole thing?
OK, it’s working – thanks, Anna!
Interesting comments/ideas from everyone. I really like Oli’s idea of 10p per page etc., but I am wondering how a reader would pay? The payment method would have to be absolutely seamless and invisible – not sure how you’d do it. Maybe you’ve already figured it out!
Then again, I kind of agree with Harry as well: we’re not charged to browse through books in bookshops, so why online? Mind you, we tend not to read entire novels while we’re in the bookshop either, no matter how comfy the chairs are, whereas we can easily do so on sites like CN. It just goes to show how very different the traditional and electronic reading experiences are. I don’t know what the answer is. All I can say is this: whatever Anna and Oli decide, it would be great if you could build a few options in, so that those of us who want to keep things as they are can do so, while those who would prefer a different approach can give it a try (whether it be tasters, nominal charge per page, or whatever) – assuming, of course, that the cost of such functionality would not be prohibitive.
So far then it is suggested that a minimum amount be manditory to be made available for free as a taster. The author can then choose the exact amount over that to be made available.
The payment for pay-per-page would take the form of a credit account. Each reader would start with zero credit and be able to read until their balance reached -£2 (or some set figure). When they reach this point they would be informed that they have reached the credit limit and should top-up (like a pay-as-you-go mobile phone). They top-up via paypal/credit card a set amount £10/£20 and can continue reading. All the pages they have read would be saved so they can come back to them later. As I mentioned before they would have the option to buy the full book if they want and the amount they spent using pay-as-you-go for that book would be deducted from the total.
Of course with the PAYG system you would still have a free taster it would just allow any reader to delve a bit deeper without any expense. As there is a credit limit even new users can start delving without having to pay anything upfront.
Just a quick comment before I close down for a couple of weeks. Yes I understand the eye strain problem, I am not fond of reading too much on a screen and while young folks may well revel in staring at a computer screen, us older folks who generally read more anyway, prefer a ‘proper’ paper book. Two sales on Deluge have been for this reason while one purchaser was also intending to purchase the e book version for its search facility, very useful in what could be seen as a reference book. Certainly I have used web versions of various books instead of my own paper copies for this reason when researching. The reasons for use of the various options are hence quite varied.
Given the forgoing it appears to me that the electronic on site reading will rarely involve readers enjoying complete books in this fashion. I am here referring of course to computer monitors and while I have no experience of e readers these are said to be far easier on the eyes…maybe so and while the web and its content will be available from these, and on site reading may be easier, this should be limited to whatever is decided by the author as a suitable taster…until such time as the work is purchased.
In these days of ‘nothing to pay for a year’ and then easy payments I cannot envisage the idea of pay to read taking off, people are constantly looking for the cheapest deal they can get and if that means free then they jump at it. I am reminded of ‘The Alchemist’ work mentioned in the introductory article to this discussion, the free give-away eventually resulted in greater sales hence I personally advocate a reasonably sized ‘taster’ which is defined by the author of the work. This is more of an attractor and ultimately should result in a greater take up of the product on offer even though an element is of the work is given for nothing.
What I would advocate, although the application would be difficult, is a reduced price to costs only in return for a review of a work. Purchasers of a work offered another at cost in return for a review of the first. However, I fail to see how this could work except with authors with more than one book on site as the cost price work would otherwise be someone else’s…Perhaps someone else can dream up a scheme that would work here? Reviews and practical criticism are important and assist in improving our scripts.
Assuming that something of this nature were to be set up, it may attract more interest in the site and what is on offer and lead to critical reviews of our work. As we are in a position where we can update our documents and are not stuck with the mass production of conventional print runs, I feel that if this could be applied it would be a good idea and any textual improvements can be then be made quite easily. My recent stint on Graham Hancock’s site as Author of the Month has reinforced this view, as self publishing authors we do not employ people who copy edit for a living and hence little bits slip through, typos, little grammatical errors, sections of text that are not perhaps as clear as they ought to be…we tend to read what we think we have written not what in fact we have written. These small problems ideally require sorting before the works are published mainstream…if a script is first class on submission it is more likely to be taken up by a publisher…they have less work to do and therefore less costs and mainstream publishing is, of course, what we all want.
Practical criticism improves our scripts and the good parts of any review can be carried forward as part of a sales campaign. I feel that this is the sort of scenario we should be aiming at, with on site reading in full available to fellow authors on the site so we can crit each others work as our time permits, but with punters being limited to whatever the relevant author decides is sufficient for the publicity job. In return for a review a cost price book availability scheme could well result in more interest long term.
I look forward to reading any comments on these suggestions when I return from Snowdonia.
One more thing that is vaguely related to the current discussion, a while ago we were debating the idea of ‘shorts’ and the concept of a sort of ‘Sunday Supplement’ where we can place articles about all and sundry…as in a quality Sunday Newspaper. Has anyone had any further thoughts along these lines? I feel that it would be good for a site such as CN. A sort of independent association of writers of all sorts, books [obviously], articles, short stories, all showcased on site, a regular community of writers.
It feel it would also be a good idea to put the criterion for the Spanish Newspaper articles on line as well and to where any submission should be sent… preferably I would have thought, via CN.
Regards to all, back in a couple of weeks
It seems that two posts arrived here while I was writing my previous one!
Sorry Oli, here I agree completely with Colin, it seems to me to be too big a risk to take for the small return that may ensue. I would stick with the more conventional concept and let others take such risks. To make this work would require a sea change in attitudes towards the browsing scenario and I cannot see people accepting the idea, especially in the current economic climate which has most unusually caused a slowdown in conventional publishing. It is the concept of paying to read with no ownership of the material that will put people off, and as Colin suggests, possible cause harm to CN. I see it as too big a risk at the moment.
Thanks for your feedback on this guys, we’re going to update the BookStreamer soon so thoughts now are more important than ever.
I am not sure I understand the danger of the proposed PAYG system. Like before, there would still be a free taster and still be an option to buy the entire book.
The only difference is that once the reader finishes the free taster they have the choice as to whether to buy the book in one lump sum or in parts by reading on. It will be clear that buying the book costs the same whether you buy it in parts or all at once. The method for paying for access to the pages will be unobtrusive and consist of an account balance which gets reduced as you read through the pages.
Either way, as Alan says, we will enable people to opt-in to any new features we might bring along.
Would love to know your thoughts and if anyone can clarify the ‘danger’ to the site if any. If there is anything that isn’t clear please let me know.
Just poked the nose in quickly!I should be packing…
Buying pages to read is like serialising a book, buying it in stages. However, if one decides after getting three quarters of the way through that it is not for you [as occasionally does happen] and you have paid for the privilege of trying it…not a nice thought. I think people will gamble on what is presented in a normal fashion and be put off by the idea of paying for further views for the reason stated above.
Ah ok, but you once you have paid for those pages you can still go back and see them any time you like, just like if you bought the book. Personally I would prefer to read more and perhaps then decide it wasn’t for me rather than spending the full price on the book to find that out.
The great thing is that once you’ve started it softens the end purchase. Say you have a scenario where someone reads the free sample and want to continue, they can read on for just a fraction of the cost of the book to decide whether it is for them. After 20 more pages they might still be a bit unsure whether to buy but now the price of the rest is £2 less so buying the whole thing is more attractive.
Your point about whether seeing something new will scare them away more than nothing new is very valid though. This will come down to presentation, the option could be hidden from anyone who doesn’t get to the end of the taster. For those who do they could be presented with the option such as:
You’ve reached the end of the sample! Would you like to:
1) buy the eBook now for £6.99 – click here
2) continue reading online – £0.10 per page until the price of the book is reached.
Note: The amount you spend reading online will be deducted from the price of the eBook if you choose to buy it. Any pages bought will remain accessible by you just check back later.
It is untested but I don’t see the down side. I think it would be is easy to use, it would lower the barrier to purchase and anything you buy would be retained by you to access later.Thoughts?
Sounds to me like it’s worth a try. Are any other sites working to this model, or would CN be the first? If so, it might well come across as innovative and interesting, rather than an obstacle. The entire field of e-publishing and e-reading is still in the experimental stage, really, so why not experiment?
Oli, sounds good to me. The only reservation I have is that you mention ebooks . I hope you are referring to the normal published book too. I think that offering a taster with options afterwards could be a winner.
It will be possible with paper books but it is a little more complicated due to the cost price of printing. We’ll figure it out one way or another though.
Looking at all the comments regarding this I think there is certainly no harm in pushing ahead with new approaches. The publishing industry is changing so maybe those with something different and new to offer with regards to reading will reap the reward. I think as long as readers have a series of options on how to read the books they choose it shouldn’t do any damage to a site like CN.
I would still wish to see CN put in author control on how much of the work goes out for nothing though, i think that sentiment is felt by most here.