A lot of us are thinking about monetizing models for the Net Age. A comment under that article has some interesting data. Andrew wrote:
Slightly less drastic than the ransom model, but similar, is the subscription model, as practiced by the German avant-garde band Einstuerzende Neubauten. They've been going about 30 years now, and have a hard core of followers as well as a fuzzier halo of more casual listeners.
In 2002 they ditched the record companies and switched to subscriptions. The idea was, you subscribed to the next album, and thus paid for them to make it.
In return you got a special edition of the finished CD before the normal edition hit the shops, and access to freebie content on their website, e.g. interviews, live studio webcams, bonus tracks, outtakes etc. You also got the chance to go to supporters-only gigs and other events.
Since then they've released several albums and DVDs, and toured almost every year, playing in decent-sized venues like the Forum in London as well as much larger events like the All Tomorrow's Parties festival. So it must be working for them.
Perhaps authors with existing followings can work along similar lines?
(See: Wikipedia, and neubauten.org)
If I were them, I'd send out the special content on a DVD along with the CD, instead of putting it on the site. It would not cost much more (less than a dollar per subscriber), but it would feel a lot more special to the subscribers.
Another commenter, Robert, says:
Where does the 3-500 pages format come from? It must have something to do with the limitations/advatages of the printing process.
Perhaps online a different model is needed?
Good point. My feeling is that it would be better to sell a novel in short-story chunks, perhaps ten thousand words at a time, for two bucks each perhaps. It would also encourage the writer to keep the story interesting, something a novelist sometimes forgets in the middle of a 600-page tome!
And I feel it might be wise to work on many different levels. For sure, there needs to be lots of free content, it's the best way to attract new readers/viewers. And then two more levels, where people can buy online content according to how strong fans they are. And then a level of physical content for hardcore fans who want something special, something they can place on their shelf. And a super-exclusive level of that, with the object being signed, perhaps in a special edition (extra nice binding or something).
(This is a development of what the book industry is already doing with paperbacks and hardbacks. A hardback is not much more expensive to produce, but sells for much higher price, early, to the real fan.)
Re micro-payments, I was once convinced that this was a great solution to many things. But I actually used them on a part of Domai for a while (via the bygone Bitpass system), and I found that, unexpectedly, that a 500-picture collection at $5 sold much better than separate 50-picture collections at $0.50, despite the per-picture price being the same! It seems that there is a minimum value at which buyers "can be bothered" to buy.