Alongside other ebook readers, Amazon’s Kindle service can provide some really interesting broad-spectrum data on what people want from ebooks. It turns out, most people want them for free.
It might seem a touch obvious, but Cnet is reporting that the majority of bestsellers on Amazon’s Kindle service are ones that are offered for free. The only problem is that it paints the ebook business as one in which publishers will be hard pressed to turn a profit; if customers aren’t willing to shell out their hard earned cash for a digital version of a book you could comfortably sell for over €10, then ebooks start to look like a dodgy prospect for publishers.
Of the top 100 books on Amazon’s Kindle service (and the list changes hourly), around 64 are free. It might seem easy to say, “Ah, but there are 36 that aren’t,” and certainly there’s a case to be made for that argument, but it’s likely still a little worrying for those depending on ebook sales.
Of course, this is an issue that’s long plagued digital distribution, in one form or another. The fact that there’s no physical media changing hands means that customers feel entitled to pay less. It doesn’t seem to matter that a download is more convenient than a trip to the shops; it seems that people want to pay less if they’re not getting a thing to hold at the end of the day, and it’s a hard point to argue with after the 1984 and Animal Farm debacle.
For now, we’d be curious to see the figures for Sony’s line of Readers, which boasts a wide range of free books thanks to Sony’s deal with Google Books. It seems unlikely we’ll get that kind of data in detail anytime soon, but we can dream 😉