The Bookseller Now Has a Paywall

I was catching up on my RSS feeds this morning when I came across a article in The Bookseller. This site only offers a partial RSS feed, so I clicked through to read the story. Ans that is where I encountered this:

That is The Bookseller’s new paywall. So far as I can tell it seems to be wrapped around all of their content.

Update: It turns out that the subscription is required for just the 3 items I wanted to read today, and not the rest of the site. (What are the odds?) To be honest, I threw in the towel after the third surprise block. As far as the RSS feed reader is concerned, the whole thing might as well be blocked. I cannot tell which stories are paywalled.

The subscription rates start at £186 for a 1 year paper/digital subscription. That includes shipping the weekly magazine anywhere in GB, so it’s not that unreasonable. The paper subscription costs more for the rest of the world, and that’s okay too.

But The Bookseller also offers a digital only subscription, and here’s where things get ridiculous. They’re asking £186 for the digital only subscription. That’s far more than it’s worth to me, so I won’t be subscribing.

I don’t write about paywalls much, but this one raises a particularly interesting point. First, Dilbert commented on this very story only yesterday.

Joking aside, let’s consider for a moment why The Bookseller priced the digital and combo subscription at the same rate. They’re propping up the print subscription, but why are they doing it?

My guess is that they did the math and concluded that print subscribers are worth more. I don’t have their numbers, but I would bet this is true; print advertising is still a better income stream than digital subscription or digital advertising. (You would not believe how little Adsense pays.)

Still, that’s more than I want to pay, so this is likely going to be the last time in a long while that I mention The Bookseller on this blog. The same is probably true for the active sharers on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere. If our network of readers cannot see the story then there’s not much point in sharing the link.

But I do plan to keep watching The Bookseller; I want to see if the drop in shared links will lead to The Bookseller getting less credit for breaking stories (that no one can see).

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Sam Misingham20 February, 2012


    I know I don’t have to explain to you or your readers why we need to charge for content.

    To address a few specific points – the paywall isn’t wrapped around all of the content. As you can see from our home page – only stories with padlocks are subscriber- only – approximately 3 out of about 40 articles currently.

    We will continue with a considerable amount of free-for-all content. But at the same time we will be ensuring our paying subscribers get more and more value. So we will continue to add more services & exclusive content behind the paywall to our pretty sizeable number of subscribers.

    As well as the ongoing free content on, we have 5 different free emails and all of is free.

    We have a subscription offer of £10 for 10 weeks and we also offer company-wide subscription rates. And we’ll continue to experiment with pricing.

    We are fully aware some will subscribe and others won’t. Everything that comes with a subscription, here:

    Sam Missingham, Head of Events & Marketing, The Bookseller @samatlounge

    1. Nate Hoffelder20 February, 2012

      All 3 of the ones I wanted to read today are subscriber only. And I come via the RSS feed, so there’s no way for me to tell which ones are locked until after I click the link.

    2. CJJ20 February, 2012

      Translation: Even the local paper is doing it so why shouldn’t we.

      It’s the partial lock out thing that gets me. If I can see 75% of the content, or I am allowed x amount of articles a month for free, why should I pay to see the balance? Who’s diluting the value-It’s not me.

      If the New York Times said- hey! It’s now all or nothing, I’d buy a subscription. As it is I can make do and I use my 15 free articles a month wisely. The fact is they want the internet traffic more than the subscription. They are telling me that 15 New York Times articles aren’t worth much.

      1. Sam Missingham20 February, 2012

        I can assure we, we have not looked at local papers or the NYT and thought to emulate them. We actually had a paywall in place 3/4 years ago and because the site got too big we simply couldn’t maintain it without causing technical problems.

        Of course, over and above this, a lot of our content is researched and produced by our Bookseller journalists and previewers- if I use our buyers guides as an example. A listing of books coming out over the following 6 months by genre with analysis of key titles. Up to 9000 adult titles and 3000 children’s. A huge amount of work goes into this.

        And this is part of a subscription and is extremely useful and valuable to our audience.

        We don’t think any of our content is worthless, but as with this example, some obviously has more value than others.

        I hope that has answered your question ‘why should I pay to see the balance’. You will, if its value to you exceeds its price. like I said earlier, not for everyone.

        Personally, I pay for ebooks – 99p if I’m not familiar with the author and not sure if it’s worth it & I paid £25 for the Steve Jobs ebook biog.

        1. CJJ20 February, 2012

          Your argument would have merit if not for the last paragraph. An underhanded cheap shot. It belies your beliefs that someone not willing to pay for certain content is not willing to pay for anything. Surprisingly, I buy ebooks. Sometimes I even pre-order them.

          I never stated your content is worthless. I explained how some consumers of internet content view a paywall. TheBookseller has made the decision that its “not for everyone”. If you are comfortable in that decision why protest so much?

          And I’m happy to acknowledge that you did this as you say “without emulating” anyone.

          1. Sam Misingham21 February, 2012

            I am ‘protesting’ as you say because I work for The Bookseller and am responsible for the paywall. If I didn’t respond to comments on blogs like this then I’d fully expect to be described as out of touch etc

            So the devil you do or the devil you don’t.

            Personally, I’m very happy to take criticism on the chin and respond to it.

            It is hardly making ‘a decision’ that The Bookseller is ‘not for everyone’, I’m merely pointing out what is obvious and the same for all websites/content/ebooks/newspapers.

            ‘An underhand cheap shot’. Wow. Seriously?

            And to anyone reading this post, please @samatlounge me on Twitter and I’m happy to answer any questions about The Bookseller.



  2. CJJ21 February, 2012

    You need to take some PR courses. enough said.


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