Will people pay for quality digital content? It’s an argument that has been on the table for quite some time, with naysayers pointing towards downloads of discographies instead of paying attention to concrete purchasing decisions.
Last week, Apple released its new version of Mac OS X “Lion”, and as per usual, Ars Technica’s John Siracusa delivered a whopping 27,300 word review of it. His 19-page story, published last Wednesday is available for free online and has already received over 3 million page views.
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In a telling turn of events, Ars Technica also decided to sell his review as a $5 Kindle ebook. In its first 24-hours on sale, the ebook sold 3,000 copies. And at $5 a pop, that’s a cool $15,000 in revenue in just one day. Harvard’s Niemen Lab interviewed Ken Fisher, the founder and editor of Ars, who is “pleasantly surprised by the outcome”. In fact, Fisher thinks of it as “free money” and that “he underestimated the power of Amazon’s one-click experience, which makes impulsive purchases painless.”
For those naysayers who think $5 is an outrageous price, Fisher said, “Only in today’s First World economies can people complain that they can’t get something for free that they can get for free.” Niemen Lab points out that “Amazon’s tiered royalty structure is designed to incentivize slightly higher prices,” so “Ars’ revenue from a $4.99 ebook is roughly 10 times what it would make from a 99-cent ebook.” And unfortunately, freelancer John Siracusa will not share directly in the proceeds, but Fisher says that Ars gives him “what he wants and more.”
“Our roots are in long, in-depth, technical explainers, and this is just another great explanation that people appreciate that content and open their wallets for it. We’re definitely going to plan more in-depth stuff,” Fisher said in the interview. “We don’t have to put up a paywall for people to consume it. We just offer it in different ways.”
Ars Technica first sold ebooks on the Kindle this past March with “Unmasked,” a collection of stories about the hacking group Anonymous, which has sold 1,000 copies for $1.99 a pop.