Jeff Bezos Interview at D6
Henry Blodget Aims to "Save the Book Publishing Industry"

Kindle 2.0: Beyond the Sample Chapter

Books3I've never been an Inc. magazine subscriber but I've read a few issues over the years. When I got a $5 first-year subscription offer in the mail I couldn't resist.  Yeah, I'll pay five bucks for one year's worth of Inc. magazine.  In fact, I'd pay $5 for a one-year trial of quite a few magazines, which makes me wonder why more aren't making this sort of offer.

If they deliver quality content that I can't live without, I'll probably be willing to pay more than $5 to renew.  So although this is a trial subscription, it's one that could be pretty lucrative for Inc. if I like what I read in the first year.  Makes sense.

What's the equivalent model in the book world?  It's probably the sample chapter, or at least that's what we publishers tell ourselves.  Amazon offers "Search Inside" and publishers often put one harmless chapter on their own websites in the hopes that it will convert browsers into paying customers.

I'm convinced one chapter is insufficient and we need to think bigger.  I also think Mark Coker over at Smashwords has a much better perspective on this.  As a publisher on Smashwords, you get to decide how much of your content you'll give readers for free before they have to pay for the rest.  Brilliant, and I'd like to propose that Amazon do something bold like this on the Kindle.

What if you could grab the first half of any novel or business book on your Kindle and you didn't have to pay a dime till finish the first half and you want the second half?  This model would put your content in the hands of a lot more customers.  If your book lives up to their expectations they'll gladly pay full price to download the second half.  Some won't bother and you'll never hear from them again, but your book's reach will be much greater than if you didn't offer it this way.

As a consumer I can honestly say I'd do a lot more sampling under this model than I do today.  That's how it worked for my Inc. subscription and I'd feel the exact same way for this option with books.

Some publishers (and authors) might be skittish because of "all this free content floating around" that they're unable to monetize initially.  That's where the idea gets even more interesting.  What if Amazon would sign up third-party content sponsors who would pay to have their advertising message appear with the free content on the Kindle?  Maybe the lower one inch of the display could be reserved for this ad space.  Whatever ad income Amazon gets from this would be shared with the publisher and the author.

Read the first half of the book for free with the sponsor's ad appearing on the bottom of the screen.  Buy the second half of the book and the advertising goes away.

Amazon could spin this into yet another benefit of the Kindle: "Why risk buying a physical book when you might be disappointed?  Read the first half of the Kindle edition risk-free!"  I wind up tossing approximately 4-6 books per year because I couldn't get past page 30; how much money would I save by test driving the first half and never having to pay a nickel for the duds?  More importantly, how many new authors and books would I discover that I otherwise wouldn't have found without this model?

To be fair, this isn't just an opportunity for the Kindle.  Sony could do the same thing.  Amazon could also do it with Mobipocket.  In short, any e-content retailer could set up something like this and take the sample chapter to the next level.


Milan Negovan

Last year I subscribed to a number of business publications, such as Inc, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Forbes. Eventually I ditched them all except Inc. To my taste, their content is much more focused, and articles are educational enough. The worst of the above list, in my opinion, was the helter-skelter Forbes.

Just my 2c. ;)

Carolyn Jewel

I really like this idea. I think you're right that it will bring in a lot more paying readers. The question is whether publishers have the guts to try it.

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