In its first year offering e-books and digital comics, Humble Bundle, the promotional site that lets readers pay what they wish for bundles of DRM-free content, released 18 e-book bundles that generated $4.75 million in revenue. Of that revenue, $3 million was generated by comics alone.
Out of the 18 DRM-free e-book bundles released by the site in 2014, 10 bundles were made up entirely of comics. The average bundle, according to Humble Bundle, generated $265,000.
Humble Bundle director of e-books Kelley Allen called the site’s first year offering bundles of prose e-books and digital comics, a rousing success; she expects to release two more bundles by year’s end.
Humble Bundle, which allows its users to designate part of their payment to go to a charity of their choice, also generated (from the 18 bundles it released in the year) $1.2 million for charities. Among the charities that have benefited from Humble Bundle's approach are Doctors Without Borders, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, First Book, Feeding America, and the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America Emergency Medical Fund.
Founded in San Francisco, Humble Bundle was launched as a promotional platform for video games. Now, the site attracts millions of fans, on a weekly basis, who are looking for the discounted bundles. This year Humble Bundle added a regular e-book promotion to its offerings, allowing customers, every two weeks, to purchase themed bundles of DRM-free prose and digital comics.
“The numbers generated by the book bundles look like a rounding error in comparison to video games,” said Allen, who formerly worked for Disney Publishing Worldwide and Random House New Media, among others.
The DRM-free bundles have reached millions of new readers, Allen explained, in part by putting publishers' content in front of a stream of new customers, namely Humble Bundle's customer base of video-gamers. Allen said the e-book bundles are high value, and attractive to the video game community, especially the comics bundles. “The bundles attract a demographic aged 12 to late 30s, [which is] a high-spending and vocal demographic,” she explained. “The bundles also challenge the stereotype that video-gamers don’t read,” she added, emphasizing that bundle buyers often, “read digital first, and then go out and buy in print.”
Because of Humble Bundle’s ability to drive traffic to its content, trade book publishers and comics publishers are beginning to, as Allen put it, “come around to DRM-free distribution." However, Allen noted, "comics publishers are much more flexible.”
Over the last year, though, Humble Bundle has been working with more trade publishers, including S&S, Open Road, Scholastic and HarperCollins. The site has also worked with such comics houses as IDW, Image, Boom! Archie Comics, Vertical, Dynamite, Antarctic Press, Valiant, Oni Press, Dark Horse, Madefire and Skybound. Among the bundles the site released in 2014 were a collection of Dr. Who comics, a sci-fi bundle featuring Open Road titles, a horror bundle, and an IDW Star Trek comics bundle.
In terms of rights, Humble Bundle usually requests world rights for its DRM-Free bundles. “We want the bundles to be available to everyone no matter where they are,” Allen said. While most bundles feature titles from a singe publisher, Humble Bundle has done multi-publisher bundles. Those, however, require several months to put together, with the need to get all the rights approved. Humble Bundle has now created a “master services agreement” for each bundle, with an addendum executed for each publisher.
While Humble Bundle tends to on backlist titles, the site has done bundles with frontlist works, when it is able to obtain the rights. “We experiment to find what people like. We work well with comics publishers, who see our bundles as a terrific form of book discovery. They really want people to get a taste of their series,” Allen said.
Although it's taken longer to convince the trade houses of Humble Bundle's value, Allen said she expects to have more trade book bundles in 2015.