What readers want (and what we are not giving them)

From No Shelf Required:

For the past many months, I’ve had the privilege of stepping outside the confines of the publishing and library industries (as well as the borders of the United States) to engage in non-profit projects and initiatives that bring books and knowledge to people. There comes a point in every person’s career when we crave to turn our professional jobs into missions, and it simply isn’t enough to earn a paycheck, even amidst the most challenging circumstances. We take a leap of faith and jump.

And jump I did, from New York all the way to Croatia, where I would (not immediately upon arrival but soon thereafter) embark on the project of my life and turn an entire country into an open virtual library (available to all its people without a card and access code and regardless of status, geography, background, citizenship, etc). In early December 2016, Croatia (the country of my birth) became the world’s first Free Reading Zone for one entire month.

During that time, anyone in Croatia, including residents and tourists, could read (online and offline) freely over 100,000 books from well-known publishers (some old, most brand new releases), in several languages, via a free reading app, called Croatia Reads. While I plan to share the full story of how we pulled it off (I managed the project in cooperation with Total Boox and a few local enthusiasts), and what we hope to accomplish next in another article on NSR, here, however, I want to briefly shed light on the most prominent lessons learned from this transforming experience (there have been many). And it has to do with understanding what readers really want from ebooks and digital content.

The pilot wasn’t just a passionate attempt to ‘free’ books from the confines of library walls and expensive ebook platforms and bring them to people in rural areas and places with no bookstores or libraries. It was an attempt to prove to the book and library industry on both sides of the Atlantic that there is genuine interest among consumers to read ebooks when the right conditions are created for them, just as there is genuine interest in engaging with all sorts of information in digital format. With all due respect for all our arguments about the emotional attachment to paper, ebooks hold the promise of a future in which paper books do not perish but knowledge flows freely to all who want it, while publishers and content creators get their fair share.

Long story short: readers will read books in digital format enthusiastically when they are offered to them for free. Does this mean that publishers will not get paid? Of course not. The whole concept of the Croatia Reads project was designed around the idea that publishers always get paid for everything read (that’s why we opted for the Total Boox model, which pays publishers only for the content read). But more importantly, the reading is always sponsored by a third-party, in this case it was No Shelf Required. In other words, the burden of paying for the reading is transferred from the reader onto the sponsor.

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required and thanks to SFR for the tip.

65 thoughts on “What readers want (and what we are not giving them)”

  1. When we gave away free ice-cream they came in droves.

    All well and good. Now, will they come if they have to pay for it? What price-point starts turning them away? Do different flavors give you different price-points before they turn up their noses at you and go for the free/cheaper donuts next door?

    Of course people like sampling free stuff, but there are few writers/ice-cream makers that can survive on thumbs ups (and few companies that can afford to buy ice-cream just to give it away — unless they’re making their money with the bodies coming to get/eat the ice-cream.)

    • ice cream makes people fat.

      books make people smart.
      and happy. and creative.
      and wise. and imaginative.

      education is a good investment.
      a smarter populace benefits all.

      books are a good investment.
      much better than ice cream.

      libraries save lives.

      -bowerbird

      • I was using it as an example.

        And all books don’t make people smart, some just attempt to expand your mind, so you might as well go watch some informative TV show.

        Soup kitchens save lives too, and are also free.

        • soup kitchens are also beautiful.

          and they too would be improved
          if we could reproduce the soup
          for next to nothing, and send it
          world-wide at virtually no cost.

          -bowerbird

        • They’re not free.

          The soup doesn’t magically appear in the bowl. The expenses of purchasing, preparing, and serving are borne by someone other than the consumer.

          • project gutenberg has
            tens of thousands of
            bowls of beautiful soup
            to nourish your mind,
            spirit, and soul, and
            all are free of charge.

            and the bowls never run out!
            you can eat a bowl and
            your friends can eat it too,
            the same day, the same time!

            no computer?
            no problem!
            visit your local library!

            -bowerbird

  2. beautiful.

    this is what e-books were destined to do:
    to spread knowledge all around the world.

    then the damn corporations got in the way.

    and it wasn’t just that they wanted to be paid.
    nobody ever argued against fair payment, but
    they wanted to let their greed run totally wild,
    and exploit the situation as much as possible.

    they still do, which is why they won’t agree to
    any payment-for-actual-use pooled systems.

    so u.s. libraries are being gouged by overdrive.

    avarice. it must be one heckuva drug.

    -bowerbird

    • Mine are free as well, as they are a web page I have no idea how many times they’ve been read/reread.

      Some I’m revamping after ten years, both old and new will be on the web (no walls) and on Amazon for those that are ‘too lazy’ to convert it from htm and/or those who wish to ‘support that silly writer’.

        • Not my site, though they host most of my tall tales.

          Just look for a ‘chakat’, some of them live in dens (the one you seek is ‘down under’) you’ll find me among the riffraff.

          (Also on Amazon, but you did say ‘free’. 😉 )

          • too obtuse.

            in the absence of a link,
            do you have a patreon or
            some other place where i
            can give you money directly?

            i admire your comments
            across the e-book sphere
            (except, ironically, those
            you’ve made on this page,
            which missed the mark
            rather completely, alas),
            and i believe in supporting
            smart people financially.

            same offer for you, felix.

            > bowerbird@aol.com

            -bowerbird

            • ‘I’ missed the mark?

              I was just demonstrating that even ‘free’ can cost you time and a bit of effort. And like taking the time to visit the library, you then have to look through the offerings for what you’d like to read.

              Other than Amazon I’m not collecting money from others.

              Enjoy. 😉

    • somebody built a beautiful
      interstate highway system
      which you can use for free,
      once you buy that tesla…

      and your neighborhood likely is
      served by firefighters who would
      try to put out a fire in your garage
      before it can burn up your tesla,
      and they will do it for you for free.

      police might recover your tesla
      if somebody steals it from you,
      and you won’t have to pay them.

      and you might drive your kids
      to the public school in your tesla,
      where they’re educated for free.

      or perhaps to the local library,
      where they read books for free!

      societies provide all kinds of things
      to their members — free of cost! —
      because that’s what civilization is.

      you want to live in a civilized society,
      right?

      -bowerbird

      • I take it where you live you pay no taxes of any sort.

        My local taxes pay those police and fire departments to be there when I need them. Fuel and other taxes pay for the roads I drive.

        TINSTAAFL There is no such thing as a free lunch, somewhere somehow someone had to pay for it in order for you to eat it. Now whether ‘you’ paid for it is a different question, but if those others don’t get paid in a manner they like/prefer/need, those lunches will stop being made and won’t be there for you to eat at any price.

      • societies provide all kinds of things
        to their members — free of cost! —
        because that’s what civilization is.

        Free? Really? TAXES pay for that stuff, silly rabbit!

      • I pay for highways, fire, police, schools, and libraries. None of it is free. I provide it as a token of my nobility.

        But, Tesla doesn’t seem ready to give me a free car. Just like those publishers who won’t give me a free book. They remind me of that guy who cuts my lawn. Can you believe the uncivilized greed pig wants to be paid?

        I old the lawn guy I provide him highways for free, so he chould cut my lawn for free.

        • terrence said:
          > I provide it as a token of my nobility.

          i applaud your nobility.

          many people would prefer not to pay taxes;
          but they pay anyway, because if they don’t,
          society will impose harsh sanctions on them.

          in other words, we pay for highways, police,
          school, libraries, and a host of other things,
          because society (government) _forces_ us to,
          because society (our elected government) has
          decided that those things are of benefit to us.

          we determine these things are good to have,
          so we make everyone pay for ’em collectively,
          to the point we’ll actually put people in prison
          if they try to weasel out of paying their taxes…
          (which indicates that we take this all seriously.)

          and yes, believe it or not, i actually knew that.

          but i’d like to thank all of you for telling me.

          and, you’ll notice in that list of things above,
          society uses tax dollars to provide _libraries_,
          because we have decided that they are good,
          so we compel everyone (under force of law!,
          escalating up to the point of imprisonment!)
          to pay tax money so that we have libraries,
          where nobody has to pay to read the books.

          everybody can read the books. at no charge.

          that doesn’t mean the books weren’t paid for.
          nobody said they didn’t have to be paid for.
          i never said that. y’all just pretended i said it.

          the project described above actually reported,
          outright, that the publishers were compensated.

          with money. from the government. tax money.
          collected from taxpayers. under threat of force.

          but the people could read the books at no cost.

          just like p-book libraries in cities worldwide.

          so what was your point again?

          -bowerbird

          • I determine having a mowed lawn is good. I told the lawn guy he should mow it for free. I pointed out how noble I am, and listed all the stuff I provide him for free. I even told him I deserved a Social Justice Warrior discount. The guy started shouting. Can you believe it? The only word I caught was, “madre.” What an ingrate.

      • Firefighters and police are just as greedy as the guy who mows my lawn. They want money. They want to be paid. I provide them with all this free stuff, and they just take it, then want more.

      • None of that stuff is free, and I suspect you know it and are just playing here, with your oddly formatted posts and specious arguments.

        Sure, the people of Croatia are really happy with free books. The world is really happy with free books. While it’s really nice and good for society as a whole to get people with limited access the opportunity to read, just giving free books for a short period doesn’t solve anything.

        It’s nice that the sponsor for this opened their pocketbooks. But that won’t last. Nothing is truly free. There is a cost, and someone will pay it. The author/creator must be paid.

        • for a bunch of writers,
          you people sure have
          poor reading comprehension.

          and a lack of simple logic.

          not to mention consistency.

          first you say there are no free books;
          then you say there are plenty of ’em.

          i know we all know exactly
          what the situation is here,
          and i suspect you are just
          arguing for the sake of conflict,
          and it doesn’t even matter to you
          whether your argument makes sense.

          who among you lives in a place which
          does not have a public library nearby?

          who among you thinks that the readers
          have to pay to check out books there?

          who among you thinks that the books
          on the shelves there were not paid for?

          who among you disagrees with the idea
          that libraries are crucial for our society?

          who among you thinks that _anyone_
          here is suggesting that writers should
          _not_ be compensated for their work?

          your simple-minded insistences that
          “authors must be paid” only go so far
          when you are unwilling to dialog about
          how we ensure that they _will_ be paid,
          once people stop buying books entirely
          because “we already have too many…”

          because that wrinkle is approaching
          very quickly, if it’s not here already.

          but based on the quality of your
          “arguments” here, you won’t even
          qualify to join in that discussion.

          -bowerbird

            • well, allen, let’s find out…

              let me ask _you_, _specifically_…

              do you live in a place which
              has a public library nearby?

              do you think that the readers
              have to pay to check out books there?

              do you think that the books
              on the shelves there were not paid for?

              do you think that _anyone_
              here is suggesting that writers should
              _not_ be compensated for their work?

              do you disagree with the idea
              that libraries are crucial for our society?

              ***

              do you think the project described here
              charged readers to read the books?

              do you think the project described here
              failed to pay for the books it included?

              ***

              and, finally, two last questions:

              if public libraries didn’t already exist
              — actual physical buildings
              with actual physical bookshelves
              holding actual physical books —
              do you think there is any way
              today’s society would decide to
              produce such a system?

              or would today’s people decide
              that it would be far too expensive?

              perhaps we would rather build
              a wall on our southern border,
              and think it a better investment.

              i wonder what this says about us.

              -bowerbird

              • Ah, to have such blinders as you — I could do anything in no time with nothing.

                You keep claiming the readers don’t pay for the library in order to read.

                If someone wasn’t paying for the library, upkeep, books, computers, power, water, internet there’d be no library for your free reading.

                As to the wall, some think we have enough freeloaders not paying for the schools and libraries they’re using.

                .

                There are people so addicted to exaggeration that they can’t tell the truth without lying. — Josh Billings

                The price is always right if someone else is paying.

                It’s hard not to like a man of many qualities, even if most of them are bad.

                The best argument against democracy…
                …is a five minute conversation with the average voter.” Winston Churchill

                • readers don’t pay to check out books.
                  not at nearly any public libraries today.
                  a reader pays the same — nothing —
                  whether they read 2 books or 200…
                  thus the meaning of “the books are free.”

                  but of course the books are purchased.
                  by the libraries. using money they get
                  from the government, from taxpayers.
                  thus meaning “the books are paid for.”

                  i assume that you know all of this.

                  i assume everyone here knows this.

                  after all, it’s all common knowledge.

                  it’s the same for public highways,
                  bridges, water, sanitation, electricity,
                  public schools, the military, police,
                  firefighters, and all kinds of things,
                  all of which make us civilized society.

                  that’s why it’s common knowledge.
                  (indeed, i’d say it’s painfully obvious,
                  and i’m amazed i had to type it out.)

                  so if you’re going to assume that
                  i do not know all of this, or even
                  pretend that you don’t know i do,
                  then you’re not acting in good faith.

                  and when you then go on pretending,
                  when i explicitly laid it out, repeatedly,
                  then you are acting in very bad faith.

                  so there’s very little reason
                  to continue any dialog here.

                  have a nice day.

                  -bowerbird

  3. Does this mean that publishers will not get paid? Of course not. The whole concept of the Croatia Reads project was designed around the idea that publishers always get paid for everything read[.]

    An independent author is a publisher, so an independent author would get paid. (If they could participate in the program.) My question is, does a penned author get paid? That’s between the author and their publisher, not Total Boox or No Shelf Required.

  4. Project Gutenberg? There is always enough out-of-copyright stuff to read.

    Going from free, these people are going to have a heck of a time monetizing. Just ask Facebook and Google.

    What happens to authors? Do they get strong-armed into providing content for free?

  5. I’m a bit unclear how publishers get paid under such a system. There’s this idea of sponsors, and maybe that can cover Croatia (for the time being), but are there enough sponsors to make the entire world a free reading zone? And what exactly do the sponsors get out of it?

    • Instead of ‘sponsors’ read advertisers. What do advertisers get out of sponsoring sporting events? Plus, we already have something like this happening, on a small scale, with Patreon. It could work.

  6. What makes the Read Crotia project different from a library with e-books for loan? Which is almost all libraries in the USA..

    This project sounds like a good thing, I just don’t understand the “we are not giving it to them” part.

    • This project sounds like a good thing, I just don’t understand the “we are not giving it to them” part.

      I’m more interested in what readers aren’t giving us.

  7. We live in an age where a lot of things that used to cost a lot to produce, such as paper books, have been replaced by things that cost almost nothing to produce, like eBooks.

    On a sale of 500,000 eBooks, an author could receive $50,000 by taking ten pennies per book delivered. A mass distributor who delivers the book to the consumer will probably do well taking $0.001 per delivery. (Just a guess.) That means everyone will be happy charging the reader a eleven cents a book. At eleven cents a book, sales might increase.

    Who’s making it on eBooks? I don’t think it is the authors, although some have done well. It’s the distributors who have jumped on the erroneous expectation that their link in the chain costs real money. Amazon’s seemingly generous 70% royalty to authors is actually banditry.

    • How many ebooks sell 500,000 copies? Virtually none. Your calculations need to take that into account – use realistic figures instead of blue-sky ones.

      I’m for damned sure not going to keep writing if all I get is ten cents a copy on the kind of volume I am generating now. And the millions of other published ebooks are not going away.

      Amazon’s seemingly generous 70% royalty to authors is actually banditry.

      This is nonsense. Amazon pays 70% of list price, and then discounts books from that list price. We have not signed an agency agreement that forbids them to price below list. It was the Big Five that did that.

      On the actual sale price of my own books on Amazon, I am averaging something like an 80% cut.

    • Amazon’s seemingly generous 70% royalty to authors is actually banditry.

      Neither author nor Amazon is sufficient for today’s market. Each is necessary, but alone neither could do anything.

      Authors are no more important than distributors in maintaining today’s market level.

      This is easy to test at home. An author just cuts out the bandit, sells all by himself, and pockets all that cash.

    • eBooks aren’t free to produce.
      They take time and money to produce. Electronic distribution may be cheaper and more flexible than mass-bound but it is not free.

      Everything has a price.
      Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
      The Third Law of Thermodynamics is inescapable.
      No perpetual motion, no free lunch.

      Even free ebooks cost something to everybody in the chain.

      TINSTAAFL!

      • hello felix…

        please see this first:
        > http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2017/01/the-publishing-business-is-a-business/#comment-381072

        i let this comment slide, originally,
        but i think i should address it now.

        e-books are not free to produce, no.

        but i have coded a system that lets
        anybody create an e-book from
        a structured text-file in minutes,
        in .epub, .html, and .mobi formats.
        (.pdf too, if you call that an e-book.)

        so e-books can be cheap to produce.
        very cheap. literally one button-click.
        (where literally actually means literally.)

        as for hosting an e-book yourself,
        it basically takes a web-site is all,
        and those aren’t all that expensive.
        and you’ll need a website anyway,
        if you want to control your destiny.

        so, no, e-books are not completely free.
        but you can do it yourself very cheaply.

        have a nice day.

        -bowerbird

        • Authors will jump at to your offer of free software. It will allow them to pull their books from Amazon and offer them to Croatia and San Francisco for free.

          The cable company will give them a free internet connection. Dell will give them free computers. Editors will handle the book for free. Cover designers will jump at the opportunity to provide free covers.

          This is the authors’ choice. I trust they will do the right thing.

      • And you keep on forgeting that the production of an ebook is a multi-step process that requires time and human work. Both have a cost.

        Just because it doesn’t come with a flashing neon sign advertising a price doesn’t mean it cost nothing to produce. That text file? It didn’t just float down from the heavens like manna. Somebody had to think those ideas and compose those words, sentences, and paragraphs in just that order. That somebody had to eat and drink and shelter while they did that. It cost them lifespan. It cost them the opportunity to go flip burgers (or some other socially productive activity) and be paid for that. It cost them time they could have spent working in a soup kitchen. Or spent with friends and loved ones earning their affection.

        Every action has a cost.
        It’s not always in currency but it always has a price. You just need to look at the whole system, not just a cherry-picked fragment. That is where thermodynamics comes in.

        Everything costs something.
        You never get anything for nothing.
        And in the end the asteroid hits, the sun goes Nova, or the universe implodes.
        Entropy always wins.

    • Let me restate myself. I was not very clear. When I sell a $10 eBook on Amazon and receive a 70% royalty, or 80% if you will, I get $8 and Amazon gets $2. Sounds like a good deal for me.

      But lets look at costs. I’m a slow writer. 1000 hours for a 100,000 word novel is reasonable for me. Lets say my time is worth $8/hr, not quite McDonalds wages in my neighborhood. So, my cost on the entire run of books is $8000. To break even in one year, I will have to sell 1000 books to make my $8000 nut.

      Now lets look at Amazon’s side. In that year, they will receive $2000. But what is their cost? I will guess, based on what I know about the cost of software distribution, that the cost per download is on the order of a tenth of a cent. Therefore, the cost to Amazon of all the downloads of my book for the year will be on the order of $1. Amazon’s $1 investment in my book for the year returns $2000, a two thousand fold return. On the other hand, my investment of $8000 returns $8000, my original investment.

      If I want to imagine I am making more on the deal, as an entrepreneur I can pay myself less, $1/hr. Then my investment is only $1000 and I get an eight fold return.

      My point here is that the Kindle platform is a much better deal for Amazon than it is for authors. That’s fine. Amazon’s stockholders have to eat too.

      And I suspect Amazon does even better on the traditional publishers because it costs Amazon the same to download a $35 book as a $3, but Amazon’s bite goes up with the price of the book while its cost stays the same.

      • that’s one way to look at the numbers.

        here’s another way. you wrote a book.

        you can sell it off your own website,
        at $10 a copy, and keep all proceeds.
        on average, you might sell 100 copies.
        more if you’re a hustler. or less if not.
        but we’ll say 100. so you made $1000.

        or you can sell it on amazon instead.
        at $10 (or $9.99), so you’ll receive $7.
        because amazon has so many customers,
        you’ll probably sell 500 copies instead.
        amazon makes $1500; you make $3500.

        amazon’s cost, for your book, was $15.
        (that’s an estimate.) so they made out.

        your cost was all of your blood and sweat.
        so you didn’t make out very well at all…

        but you got paid more, a lot more,
        when you sold your book at amazon.

        those numbers are completely made up.
        your numbers will be entirely different.

        but most authors will tell you, i believe,
        that they sell at least 5 times more books
        — and probably more like 10-50 times —
        at amazon than they could at their own site.

        is it unfair? maybe. but whatcha gonna do?

        -bowerbird

        • Bowerbird, I agree. As an author, I am probably better off with Amazon’s overwhelming market presence.

          My point is, however, that Amazon is making a staggering profit on the ebooks they sell. That is the premium that Amazon gets for being the first to figure out that they can charge a bundle for a service to authors and publishers that that costs Amazon almost nothing. It’s not unfair, it’s the rules of the market.

          However, a Zen-like truth is that someone who charges a bundle for a service that costs nothing is vulnerable to a smart competitor that who charges half a bundle for the same service that costs almost nothing to deliver. If the emperor has no clothes, a tailor who offers to supply a comparable wardrobe at half the price still makes a tidy profit. Such a competitor inevitably appears, probably sooner than later.

          This is why Gutenberg can offer a huge catalog of free books. Distributing the books costs almost nothing.

          • Two thoughts to consider:

            1- your costs are as irrelevant to Amazon’s pricing as their costs are to your pricing. You provide a product and set a price according to your assessment of the market and your goals. Amazon does the same thing. As in…

            2- Amazon pricing (and more importantly, margin) is typically well within the pre-established bounds set by the market and their competitors. Rarely if ever do they venture into outlier territory. In the Kindle space, for example, the first Kindle was priced comparably to the Sony ereader and had comparable margins. The Kindle 2, the same. They were priced with 40-50% margins which was typical of low volume eink readers at the time. Their game was to be competitive by the rules that existed. Remember Bezos’ famous quote: “Your margin is my opportunity.” It means he looks for ways to exploit market pricing by being more efficient. This results in either lower prices or higher margins or both.

            In dry good retail the margins are notoriously thin and in that business Amazon is happy with low single digits and making it up in volume.

            When Kindle launched, Amazon took their pricing cues from pbooks, where they generally pay 50-60% of cover and bestsellers went on sale for $10. (The great pbook price war of 2009 started at $9.99 and went down from there.) Their ebook distribution fee was similar until late 2009 when Random House played stoolie and told them of the conspiracy and the agency terms, at which point Amazon moved Indies to a similar 70-30. Look at their Kindle Scout terms and you’ll see a tradpub contract that is friendlier than “industry standard” but not terribly different. On tablets, when they sold premium tablets, they took their cue from Apple–when they moved down-market, they priced to the no-name tablet market. In video streamers they looked at Apple TV and Google Chromecast. It killed the Fire Phone but rather than break their own rules they chose to walk away from that business.

            Amazon prices to what the market will bear.
            What a shock, huh?
            They do not price by rolling up their costs and adding a fixed profit as many other businesses small and big do. They don’t have to. So some products and services they run tiny margins and others (AWS most notably) produce huge cash flow. Doesn’t matter to Bezos. As long as a unit is competitive in its market and feeding cash to the kitty Bezos doesn’t care what its margins are. Large is nice but small is acceptable if necessary.

            One result of this strategy is that all the whines about “predatory” pricing get nowhere. Being bigger and more efficient is not illegal. Being successful isn’t illegal. Not just yet, anyway. So the feds looked at their books, looked at their prices and walked away. Nothing to see.

            What this means is that if somebody came up with a viable ebookstore comparable to Kindle and reset the market (the way Nook stupidly reset the ereader market in June 2010 by moving to near-cost pricing) Amazon would look at the competitor and then match, better, or ignore them.

            Undercutting Amazon isn’t hard to do. Plenty of competitors do it. The key phrase is “reset the market”. If a deep pocket competitor (with significant market share) tried to buy into the ebook distribution business by going 90-10 on timed exclusives Amazon would probably react. If such a competitor discounted Indie titles a flat 20% off list (out of their cut) full time, Amazon would react.

            But the problem is, no single competitor has enough clout to reset the market and won’t for a while. So an Amazon doesn’t have to change their rates and to an extent they can’t without actually going predatory and drawing in the feds. It’s the same as with epub support: Amazon does fine without it, it would cost more to support, and it would decimate what little competition they have left. A truly monopolistic move and not worth the incremental revenue.

            Being big and efficient is a good thing but it also neans there are some moves you can’t make. Straying from market pricing is one of them.

      • But lets look at costs. I’m a slow writer. 1000 hours for a 100,000 word novel is reasonable for me. Lets say my time is worth $8/hr, not quite McDonalds wages in my neighborhood. So, my cost on the entire run of books is $8000. To break even in one year, I will have to sell 1000 books to make my $8000 nut.

        Authors are not being paid for the work they do. They are being paid for the product they bring to the market. It doesn’t matter how much time and effort they expended.

        However, a Zen-like truth is that someone who charges a bundle for a service that costs nothing is vulnerable to a smart competitor that who charges half a bundle for the same service that costs almost nothing to deliver.

        Sure they are vulnerable. So what? That’s Amazon’s problem. Bring it on.

        • All that added margin does is give them room to manuever in case sonebody actually chooses to compete with them. Cutting their own margin without competitive pressure would (aside from being stupid) be seen as a way to lock up the market by keeping out would-be competitors.

          In fact, one of the reasons they are so dominant in onoine dry goods retailing is the margins are so thin and the back end investment so high it sends would-be challengers looking for better investment opportunities elsewhere. Most of their challenges these days are coming from B&M retailers who already have a good amount of the required back end infrastructure in place and are trying to protect their investment from further erosion rather than trying to take share from Amazon.

  8. If the article’s argument was that we aren’t giving readers free books, that’s false. You can check any given moment on Amazon (not to mention other sites) and find more free books than you could ever read. Anyone can do it, with computer access to the Internet.

    I think the issue is that some people still don’t have access. Which isn’t our problem as writers, but that of countries and service providers. And possibly the culture of the area. Not everyone has adopted the new tech.

    The title of the article is like false advertising. I read it with the intent to see what I as a writer could do to better serve readers, and what I got was some junk about how people don’t have enough free reading material! Good grief.

    • The thing is, the underlying attitude behind the article is fairly common. It stems from the old “information wants to be free” mindset and the Google ad-supported betaware business model.

      The core idea is “let someone else pay for it so I can have it free”. Which totally ignores the fact that pretty much all the time the “someone else” paying is you. Either indirectly or though other “currency”.

      One problem the OP neglects to factor in is the GOLDEN RULE. As in, “them that bring the gold rule”. In other words, whatever “sponsor” pays for all those free reads also gets to control what gets read. They become the ultimate gatekeeper.

      Lots of governments would really like that.
      Businesses, too.

      Easy to see a tradpub consortium setting a sweetheart deal with a national government where everything they publish gets a fixed payout upfront regardless of whether anybody reads it in the “National Public Library” in return for ensuring nothing gets into the library that offends the government. It would even “protect culture” by keeping foreign (and morally offensive) books out of the free library.

      OP advocates would even dance with glee at their “victory”.

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