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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Expectations of free ebooks.

I think I’ve got a reasonable number of downloads for my free short-storied at some of the e-book download sites. But I often wonder what the difference in mind-set is between what someone will download for free and what they will pay money for, even if it is just .99p (pence - or cents if you are American).

It’s easy to look at the title or cover of a free e-story and download it on a whim as it costs no more than the negligible download data-size, and if you haven’t got a download limit it doesn’t mater at all. However, that all changes if the story costs money, even if it’s only 99p. I don’t think it’s necessarily the amount that makes the biggest difference, just the fact that you are now purchasing this commodity rather than merely acquiring it. Do people equate a low price to low quality? How different is it with no price? I don’t think this is ever equated to no-quality, or nobody would ever take a free download.

On occasion it seems that, for some people, the fact that a download costs anything is often too much, and this isn’t necessarily because they are too poor to afford it. I think it’s all down to perception of worth.
I’ve done it myself many times, whether it’s an e-book or a game download, I’ve thought ‘even 99p is still money.’ That suddenly makes it a transaction, and I find myself wondering if it is worth it when I wouldn’t think twice about spending vastly larger amounts of money on other, and far more mundane, things.
So why is this? Then I wonder why anyone should spend that money on my download rather than another one of the many available? It’s a decision I’ve personally made as a consumer many times, but when you are on the other side it’s all very different. No sale means nobody wants your baby, even if the decision is solely based on a title, a picture, and possibly some blurb.

I haven’t got an answer, but I am left with plenty questions…
What are people’s expectations of free and low-priced books?
Is ‘free’ seen as a taster of good things, where low-cost is seen as low-quality?
Are people more or less likely to buy an e-book priced at .99p than they are for $4.99, what about £7.99, or £17.99?

I think this mindset of ‘paying-for-something’ can obviously be applied to a much larger market than e-books. It’s determining the tip-over point between paying out any money at-all for something and deciding when the cost outweighs the possible risk. In the case of an unknown e-book the risk would be purchasing a badly writer book, or simply one you do not personally like. For some this tip-over point may well be anything, whether it is £20.99, .99p, or even .1p.

So what do you think that tipping-point is for you?

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