Infographic: What People Will Pay For Free eBooks

ebook-infographicToday I came across an infographic that I felt was a good choice for breaking the drought in infographics posted on this blog.

Techdirt has just posted a summary of their recent efforts to give away ebooks ebooks. Mike Masnick let buyers name the price for any of the 5 titles, and he failed pretty badly at giving them away. Even though over half of downloaders paid nothing, the mean ebook price was about $5. $2.41.

Update: I was looking at the wrong figure when I originally wrote this post.  The average of $4.95 only reflects the paying customers, not the freeloaders.

Joking aside, the reason i think this sales effort succeeded where other freebie efforts failed is the design of the sales page. The pricing options default on $5 (the most commonly paid price), and anyone who wanted to get the ebook for free had to make a conscious effort to do so by selecting the last option and typing in zero.

This differs from a lot of other free ebook experiments, in particular the ones many authors have attempted on their own websites, because it defaulted to a payment option, not the free option. Furthermore, the ebookstore drew its customers from Techdirt’s readership and fanbase, people who already liked the site and wanted to reward it.

I know of several authors who offered one or more free titles and put out a tip jar (donations through Paypal, for example). This does not work very well for much the same reason that my donation button down near the bottom of the page does not generate much income. Both default to unpaid instead of paid.

Free content can work; you just have to be careful how you offer it.




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. Jon Jermey12 December, 2012

    I suspect that some customers are engaging in what my son, a Dungeons and Dragons fan, calls ‘meta-game thinking’: ‘If I pay a lot for these books now, that will encourage the providers and others to go on and offer other books on the same terms. Then I can download those for free and clean up!’

    What the providers need to do in response is to make sure they wait long enough for customers to forget their original resolution, and ‘re-set’ back to the frame of mind they were in when the previous offer was made.

  2. Will Entrekin13 December, 2012

    Given that $5 was the most common price for paid downloads, I wish the category separations had been “$5 or below” and “$6 to $9.” Or something similar. With $4.95 as the average price and $5 the most common, I’m curious how many of those “$5-$9” customers paid exactly $5.

    Really, it’s meaningless without actual sales numbers. It’s like when Amazon says “Kindle Fire is the best selling Amazon product ever!” What does that even mean?

  3. […] Via The Digital Reader. […]

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  5. […] week I reported on a pricing experiment where Techdirt offered DRM-free ebooks and allowed customers to name their price. Most didn't pay […]


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