Increasing Sales, One Chapter at a Time
According to Vondeling, Berrett-Koehler believes that the audience for the full-length book and the audience for individual chapters are distinct, citing an analogy to consumers who purchase compact discs versus consumers who purchase individual songs on iTunes. While she hopes that buying an individual chapter might motivate the reader to buy the entire book, she says, “We’re not necessarily assuming that’s how it’s going to work. I think the biggest untapped audience might be people who would never buy the book, but are happy to be buying chapter downloads.”
While many professional publishers continue to contemplate this new business model, O’Reilly Media Inc. already has put the theory into practice. In June, the Sebastopol, Calif.-based publisher announced that its customers would now have the option of purchasing book content by chapter in PDF format for $3.99. Allen Noren, director of online marketing for O’Reilly, who spearheaded the books-by-the-chapter venture, explains that this is the company’s attempt to “lower the barriers to acquisition” of information, or in other words, to compete with information that is readily available––and often for free––on the World Wide Web.
Noren says that O’Reilly was receiving enough of a demand for this option from its customers to consider it a worthwhile experiment. “This makes more sense for some types of books than others, and we’ve seen that reflected in the very preliminary sales data we’ve collected since the launch,” he says. “It’s probably not a good idea for fiction, but it’s a very good idea for cookbooks and other reference works that have stand-alone components.”
Noren cites as an example a friend of his who is an avid cook. She gets her recipes for free off the Web “because her trusted sources, the cookbook publishers, haven’t created a subscription service for her to access, organize, share and annotate the same information contained in the books she used to buy,” he says.