October 24, 2012

Ebook bundle makes over $1m in two weeks


Neil Gaiman

Here’s a foolproof plan for selling a lot of books: make sure you publish a bunch of famous writers.

Humble Bundles first foray into ebook publishing ended on a high yesterday, with a digital bundle containing works by Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, Paolo Bacigalupi and others having made well over $1m in two weeks.

Humble Bundle has its origins in gaming: it’s the brainchild of Jeffrey Rosen, co-founder of Wolfire Games, and until July of this year had only offered bundles of computer games. Now it’s also produced one music and one ebook bundle. The model: a collection of content is sold online, at a price determined by the consumer, but of at least one cent. The content — be it games, music, or books — is DRM-free, indie-produced, and consumers can choose whether to give their money to the producers (authors, musicians, developers), to charity, or to Humble Bundle itself.

The first ebook bundle went on sale on October 9th, and was removed from those digital bookshelves yesterday. The Guardian reports that, if sold separately, the ebooks the bundle contains would cost $157. At the time of their reporting yesterday, hours before the sale ended, 80,625 bundles had been sold, at an average price of $14.18. One of the very cleverest parts of the deal is that certain content is only included if you pay the then-current average price for the bundle — driving up both the average and the total earnings. On the success of the promotion, Humble Bundle’s business development director Robert Martinez said:

The reception to this ebook bundle has been outstanding and we couldn’t be more thrilled. The average price that customers are choosing to pay for this bundle is unprecedented at over $14. This is, by far, the highest average we have ever experienced for a pay-what-you-want promotion, and we believe it is a great indication for the future of ebooks and Humble Bundle.

It’s certainly an eye-watering amount of money in such a short space of time, but it’s hard to imagine this runaway success being replicated next time. After all, how many more extremely high-profile, publicly anti-DRM writers are there? Gaiman and Doctorow were the ideal candidates to carry this project, and in order to keep the bundles fresh Humble Bundle will surely have to rotate at least one of them out of the next package. Watch this space…




Ellie Robins is an editor at Melville House. Previously, she was managing editor of Hesperus Press.