Have you ever read a book, put it down and come to this conclusion?: “Gee, there were 7 or 8 really valuable things I learned from this, but I had to read through 300 pages to catch them all.” Although I sometimes feel this way after reading certain business books, the issue probably isn’t exclusive to that category.
A few years ago I thought I found a solution: I subscribed to one of those programs where they send you a packet of book summaries every month. I was disappointed in the program for a number of reasons, but most importantly because I felt the summaries weren’t much more than a marketing piece for the book. I often didn’t come away feeling as though I really got the gold nuggets that made up the heart of the heart of the original work. Maybe the summary publisher couldn’t convince the original book publisher to give up all the unique content for a relatively modest secondary income stream. Worse, the book publisher might have feared that the summary product would cannibalize sales of the original book. Either way, the summaries themselves weren’t all that inspiring. Despite this experience, I’m convinced that the right summary product could be created and that we just need to work out the approach and distribution model.
Let’s say there’s a $20 book out there that promises to teach you the 11 secrets to sales success. You’re an aspiring salesperson but don’t have the time or interest in reading 300 pages to find those 11 gems. The book sells for 30% off at Amazon, or $14.00, but that discount still doesn’t offset the fact that you’re too busy to read 300 pages. Now, what if the publisher also offered a 3-5-page summary of it for $10? You get the exact same secrets found in the original book, but without all the other narrative and background information. I’d buy this product in a heartbeat, at least for some of the reading I do each year – I’m guessing this would translate into 6-10 purchases per year for me on business-related titles, maybe more since I’d be able to read them so quickly.
I recognize that this product isn’t right for everyone. Some people want to read all the supporting narrative, especially as it helps tell the whole story. Then again, what if you discovered after reading the summary above, 4 of the 11 secrets were very interesting and you wish you had more information on them? Perhaps you could scale this program out so that this particular book summary has 11 additional summary documents, each of which can be purchased separately. Maybe they’re each only $1, which means you could buy the original summary ($10) and 4 add-on’s ($4) for the same price you would have paid for the printed book at Amazon.
I see these summaries/components as e-book products, by the way. They would require some sort of digital rights management wrapper to prevent unauthorized reproduction/distribution. There’s also a transaction fee associated with this sort of program. Bear in mind that I’m just tossing out round numbers here…the financial model might have to be somewhat different than what I’m proposing.
Let’s say you read the $10 summary and still feel like you’d be better served reading the entire book. What if you could “upgrade” your summary, buy the original book and a credit is applied so that you don’t have to pay full price?
Again, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. But I think it could be an interesting model for certain areas of content distribution. What’s your opinion?