- readers won't want to pay a fractional price for a fractional book,
- publishers also won't want to receive a fractional payment for that fractional read, and
- the average ebook price is too low to make this a viable business model
If pay-as-you-read isn't a viable business model then someone forgot to tell PaperC. This Leipzig based startup launched in 2008 with the goal of selling ebooks by the page and chapter. Four years and 2 rounds of funding later and PaperC is still doing what ReadWrite insists is impossible.
If you're not familiar with PaperC, let me offer some background on how they operate. It's a somewhat complicated freemium model.
Visitors can browse the PaperC website without having to register. This includes reading up to 10 pages of any textbook (or 10 pages of every textbook). Once a reader registers, they can read from any book for up to half an hour for free before the nag screen appears and they are prompted to buy stuff.
I won't go through the entire flowchart (you can find out more here), but I will note that PaperC sells by the chapter and page. They'll let you annotate a page before downloading it and they will even help you generate a citation.
Don't anyone tell PaperC that publishers aren't interested in the idea of fractional payments. Quite a few textbook and technical publishers have already signed up, including O'Reilly, Pearson, Bloomsbury, Bertelsmann, and MIT Press. And those are just the names I recognize; there are at least a couple hundred publisher partners who collectively have over 17 thousand titles available via PaperC.
If you've been following the news about TotalBoox then you might notice that PaperC doesn't quite have the same business model as TotalBoox. This is true, but the salient details are the same. Readers are paying to read part of a book. Publishers are accepting those fractional payments.
How exactly does that model not work?