I went to the brick-and-mortars Barnes and Noble to look for Chuck Klosterman’s latest book, but was appalled to see that it was $25 in hardcover, so I went to the website to see if I could get it cheaper. Here I ran into something interesting.
Searching for Klosterman brought up a lot of e-books, many arranged by topic. Here are the first ten:
Notice “Chuck Klosterman on Rock” or “Chuck Klosterman on Film and Television,” each going for $7.99 and each containing essays already published in IV, Eating the Dinosaur and his other collections of essays. If you look at the next ten,
you will see, for example, “Monogamy,” and essay from IV on sale for $.99. Now, if you already own his other books of essays, you will not want these, but if you are new to Klosterman, or you’re only interested in a particular topic, these are pretty good deals. (A search at Amazon reveals similar results)
Scribner is making a smart move here, offering readers more fine-tuned products at lower financial risk. Klosterman fans will by the whole collections, but others might want to dip a foot in with a single essay, or ignore, say, the essays on sports. For Scribner, it creates opportunities for more sales and increases visibility on the author page. I imagine there are some SEO advantages to doing this as well.
Independent publishers (and maybe academic publishers as well) might learn from this. Shorter pieces such as essays or short stories can go for a relatively inexpensive price, and bundles based on topic can go for a little more. For indy publishers, offering readers a la carte access gives readers a low-risk way to sample work, and beefs up the author page. If a publisher has a lot of short pieces, s/he can experiment with all sorts of bundles and packaging strategies, giving the reader choice. As these are all e-books there is no additional cost but the time it takes to repackage.
Academic publishers could also offer a la carte e-essays, selecting works from across different collections, for example.
To meld the two, independent academic publishers could easily create new avenues for dissemination and discourse using these commercial sites and strategies, but that might be a post for another time.
So long as it is clear that each package is recycled or repurposed from other works, I see this as a potentially valuable tool for any writer with a lot of content.