Reader Apps vs. Dedicated Book Apps
Previewing TOC 2011

Why I'll Pay More than $9.99 for an Ebook

I recently finished reading Laura Hillenbrand's latest book, Unbroken.  It's the story of Louie Zamperini and was one of those rare books I had a hard time putting down.  It was so good, in fact, that I feel bad that I only paid $9.99 for the Kindle edition.  Amazon also sells the print version for $13.99, still a steal at 48% off the print cover price of $27.

I'm generally price-sensitive when it comes to ebooks and I'll rarely pay more than $9.99.  I knew as soon as I read the sample on this one though that I absolutely had to have it.  I would have easily paid the discounted print price of $13.99 for the Kindle edition but what would it take for me to pay $19.99 or even $29.99 for it instead?

My heart sank when I read the last page of the book's Epilogue.  I wanted more.  I was curious to learn as much as possible about Louie Zamperini and, unfortunately, neither Amazon nor the book's publisher (Random House) were there to help me continue the journey.  Yes, Amazon carries other books about Mr. Zamperini and I'll probably buy one of those, but that's not what I have in mind.

My next step was to use a combination of Bing and Google to figure out what resources are out there to further explore this man's remarkable story.  I quickly found his website, a Wikipedia entry about him and even a few videos on YouTube.  Using a combination of iPad apps, Instapaper and MiTube, I was able to pull all these pieces of content together for later reading/viewing.  My questions though are: (1) Why do I have to go out and find/gather all these things on my own?, and (2) There's probably even more great content from this project that didn't make it into the book and isn't available on the web, so why isn't the publisher selling it as well?

When I buy an ebook from Amazon the relationship for that transaction ends when my book arrives on my device.  I'd rather see a richer relationship, one that goes beyond the e-version of the print book.  When I log into Amazon each book I've bought should include links to other content on the subject.  In this case, the author or perhaps Mr. Zamperini could pull together the best resources on the web they recommend for further reading.  More importantly, what about all the other photos, stories, etc., that didn't make it into the print book?  Just as movie studios do with DVDs, why not include downloads of the author's notes, audio/video interviews, photos taken along the way, etc.?

There are many reasons why Amazon doesn't offer something like this.  The first one is because they don't want to provide links off their own page.  Amazon wants to keep all the traffic to themselves.  Too bad.  This is a great service they could offer which would only make me want to come back to more frequently to see what other links have been curated for the topic.  Pretty ironic, don't you think?

The second reason they don't offer all the additional content is they probably figure their own device won't support it.  eInk is great at rendering words on a screen but it still doesn't offer color or video capabilities.  Amazon needs to think further about all the devices their customers have access to though.  I read all my Kindle books on my iPad.  Even those customers who are reading on a Kindle have access to a PC/Mac though, where they could easily consume these other forms of content.  So when someone buys the Kindle version of Unbroken why couldn't they watch videos related to the book on their Mac?

What I'm describing isn't for everyone and I wouldn't even need/want it for most books.  But why not offer it for the ones that really lend themselves to it, like Unbroken?  Offer the additional content separately and give the customer the option of buying the bundle or just the ebook.  I'm sure this type of content is out there and some of it isn't floating around for free on the web.  I would gladly pay more for it.  In this case, a robust collection of notes, interviews, stories, videos, etc., would be worth $29.99, or $20 more than I paid for the book alone.

Amazon, when will you start selling more than the simple ebook?  You seem to be encouraging publishers to venture off and build richer, direct relationships with readers.  I think that's a smart move for publishers but it amazes me that Amazon isn't moving aggressively on this as well.



actually, I think the impetus is on the book author/distributor to offer additional information/links on the author/subject, not Amazon. Would be like expecting Barnes & Noble to provide the information for a book I'm buying there.

John Holdcroft

Joe, great synopsis of how an integrated approach to ebooks would give the superuser so much more to choose from. Your analysis of Amazon seems spot onto me: Amazon loves its customers and would rather build the interactivity instead of linking out to it to Youtube, google, etc.

Unbroken is amazing as well. Read that in December on my Kindle.

Great post. Opening up the resources that go into producing a book would be a great way to open up the subject. I've worked on editing a manuscript before, and all those sources you find in the back pages are always digitized. A shame they can't be linked together with ebooks.

Thanks for posting!

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