Throughout this week’s Digital Book World conference, one was constantly reminded of things that technology has made or will soon make a relic of the reading past. And for one new company, Total Boox (pronounced total books), that includes the way we pay for reading. Calling the “buy first, read later” nature of the book business a “burdensome remnant from the world of printed books,” Total Boox is introducing a “pay-as-you read” approach that founder Yoav Lorch believes will encourage readers to try and explore more books.
The model works simply. It looks like any other e-book store, with bookshelves that readers can drag titles onto (you can also access shelves put together by other readers) making it simple to create a personal library. The big difference—prices are listed from zero to the full price for the book. Rather than pay the full price to download the book to the library, readers pay only for the portion of the book they read, with their total book account linked to a credit card or Paypal account. Since e-books measure what percentage of a book has been read, it’s a simple calculation—for example, if you pull a $10 book into your library, and never read it, you never pay. If you read 25% of the book, your account is charged $2.50. And, if you finish the book, you pay the full price, and you own it. The app is also designed to recognize page-flipping, so you’re not charged for browsing, and you can also start reading at any point in the book.
Can this kind of “pay-as-you-read” sales approach gain traction among publishers? Lorch told PW he has signed up a number of independent publishers, and has been in discussions with the big six although no deal is imminent. But, he says, publishers have been receptive to the idea, and are curious as to how this kind of model may convert more browsers into paying readers.