An American Editor

February 17, 2010

Will You Buy This Book? A Poll (II)

This past week readers of An American Editor were polled on obstacles to buying an ebook. Readers were asked which of the listed items was the single biggest obstacle to their buying ebooks.

I was surprised by the results. The two DRM questions gathered the most votes (together 57% of all votes). Interestingly, 30% responded “DRM of any type regardless of whether it affects device portability” and 27% chose “DRM that is not cross-device (lack of device portability),” indicating a near equal split among ebookers over DRM. Approximately half of DRM choosers are willing to accept some form of DRM as long as it is device portable and half say they won’t accept DRM under any circumstance.

The third most popular response was pricing higher than $9.99 (26%). At least 26% of responders are willing to accept DRM of any flavor if price does not exceed that magical $9.99 threshold. (As we know, this threshold was set by Amazon. It isn’t clear to me on what basis $9.99 was chosen as opposed to, say, $7.99. It also isn’t clear whether $9.99 is really that magical threshold or just a threshold currently popularized by Amazon.)

Other responses were as follows:

  • Price greater than $4.99 = 8% of responders
  • Poor formatting = 5%
  • Poor editing = 3%
  • Book is self-published = 2%

Clearly, ebookers are more willing to put up with poor formatting and editing than with a high price and DRM. Does this mean that as long as a book is sold for $9.99 or less formatting and editing do not matter to ebookers? We can’t draw that conclusion — or really any conclusion — from last week’s poll, but it does raise the issue of what compromises ebookers are willing to accept.

But what is interesting is the disparity in price levels. I would have thought that for ebookers to whom price was the biggest obstacle, $4.99 would have been the magic threshold. Apparently, ebookers are willing to pay more albeit not above $9.99.

However, there were a lot of complaints that geographical restrictions were not a choice, with many readers saying that is the biggest obstacle to their purchasing an ebook. I wonder how much of an obstacle it really is. Let’s go to this week’s poll, for which there are several questions, so please be sure to read through this article.

Let’s assume that the publisher of an ebook you have been eagerly waiting release of offers you the opportunity to buy that ebook and will make 1 change to purchasing “obstacles” as an inducement for you to buy it. Which change would you ask the publisher to make from among those listed? [This poll is not intended to cover every possible option. I recognize that for some people the only answer is all of the choices or none of the choices or some other unlisted choice. However, for this poll these are the items of interest.]

If an ebook were released today that you had been eagerly waiting for, and was released with all of the following “obstacles” to your purchasing it, but the publisher agreed to make 1 change of your choice if you agreed to buy the ebook,

If the only “obstacle” were DRM, that is, the ebook’s price was no higher than $9.99 and there were no geographical restrictions,

Although not explicitly stated in the discussions about ebooks, most of the discussion is focused on fiction ebooks, the books that people tend to read once and do not look to as reference books. That raises questions about whether an ebooker’s perspective changes depending on the type of book in question: fiction or nonfiction. So this question is addressed solely to nonfiction ebooks, such as a biography, a history, or a book about computer software.

This poll will run for 1 week. Please participate. If you have suggestions for questions or topics for future polls please mention them in the comments section.

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