Infographic: People Will Pay To Support Creators, Even When Free Is An Option

from the reason-to-buy dept

Back when we first launched the Insider Shop, we made two PDF ebooks available at any price you choose: Mike’s Approaching Infinity (on new business models and the economics of abundance) and our Sky Is Rising report on the state of the entertainment industries. More recently, we launched three fiction titles by our own Tim Geigner—Digilife, Echelon and Midwasteland—also available on a pay-what-you-want basis. They were an instant hit, and we’re in the process of preparing new ePub versions.

The thing we noticed right away was that a lot of people were choosing to pay, even though you can download all the books for free. Almost half of all book downloads were paid, with most people choosing the default $5 per book—even when buying four or five books at once—and several going above and beyond, with a few even paying $20 for a single title.

At this point, there’s plenty of evidence that people will gladly, even eagerly, pay to support creators despite being given the option of getting something for free—and we’re glad to add the success of our Insider Shop ebooks to the list. For those who want a closer look at the numbers, I put together a quick infographic:

Embed This:

Thanks to everyone who has downloaded our ebooks, whether you paid $0 or $20 or anything in between! If you haven’t gotten your copies yet, head on over to the Insider Shop and check them out.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Infographic: People Will Pay To Support Creators, Even When Free Is An Option”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Mike Brown (profile) says:

Well, that is sort of like asking “how much money did you make.” Not very polite. Not that I’m not curious myself, of course.

Mike and Tim would never say this, but 51% paid nothing? For shame. Have you read this blog? Oh nevermind, I’m sure it was AJ, OOTB, and Bob, downloading tons of copies in order to skew the results in their favor.

Milton Freewater says:

Re: Re:

AJ, OOTB, and Bob pay nothing for the copyrighted articles on this blog and they pay nothing to support the professionals who maintain these threads.

They don’t believe in paying for content. They believe in picking fights, and they sort of believe in people other then themselves being forced to do things.

They’re bullies, not advocates. Their posts are filled with fiction intended only to get attention and upset people. They don’t understand the subject and they don’t care.

It’s funny how many trolls come onto TD and other similar sites and confuse passion with weakness. “If you care enough to respond to me over and over, I’ve won.” Not if the subject is important, chumley.

anonymouse says:

Re: Re:

I personally dont think it is a problem downloading for free, a lot of people will be trying them out and may pay next time while some may just not have a paypal account or an easy way to pay or just dont buy of the internet , i know a few people like that. In fact i would encourage people to download the book or books and read them at least then when someone asks you can recommend or not. I dont like it when people say that those not paying are scroungers, just like the the guy recently on here that put a message if people took his stuff for free, how he called then scroungers or something like that, people who download for free have many reasons and i dont think there is anything wrong with it.

I wont download it, I have loads of books to read on my kindle and honestly dont need any more for a while.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I dont like it when people say that those not paying are scroungers

Just to be clear, this is exactly how we feel too. Please, everyone, pay or don’t pay, whatever your reasons! We are happy for the books to get out there. Approaching Infinity has been freely available as a series of Techdirt posts for years, Sky Is Rising was dedicated to the public domain on its release, and Tim has always emailed free copies of his novels to anyone who asks.

When we say Pay What You Want, we mean it! And we hope you enjoy the books!

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Mike and Tim would never say this, but 51% paid nothing? For shame.”

It might be worth noting that one piece of evidence I remember from Radiohead’s experiment with In Rainbows was that there were multiple “sales” to the same people. That is, people downloaded for free, then listened to the album, realised they liked it, then downloaded again for a paid amount in order to compensate the artist. In other words, people were previewing the content before deciding what it was worth and what to pay. Nothing wrong with that.

Either way, there’s really nothing wrong with downloading for free if that option is available. Anyone who offers such a deal is going to aware that many people will take the free option, perhaps even a majority of people. But just because they don’t pay up front, that doesn’t mean that those people won’t pay in future – another reason why the content industry’s insistence on suing people is counter-productive. The trick isn’t to get 100% of people to pay, the trick is to build a business where the freebie downloads aren’t necessarily a negative. If the revenue generated by this model is higher than the amount they would have made through traditional sales or by selling locked-down $20 eBooks, who cares how many people got a free copy on the side?

“Oh nevermind, I’m sure it was AJ, OOTB, and Bob, downloading tons of copies in order to skew the results in their favor.”

Judging by ootb’s obsessive linking to a piece of factual information about Mike as though that’s some kind of negative, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did this thinking they were “costing” Mike money every time they downloaded. Such is their lack of understanding about the realities of concepts discussed here.

Tim Griffiths (profile) says:

Re: Re:

51% not paying here is a bit of a pointless number because you have no idea how many of those people represent those who would have other wise paid or those that would never have. For example there are a good number of free ebooks I have and almost all of them are books I’d never have read if I’d had to pay for. (As a side note this has often lead to me buying other books from a series.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Ah, come on. ootb is certifiable which is not usually the definition of a simpleton. Average Joe is burried very deep in the subject of law, but he is not stupid at all. With a litlle less ad hom he would be a fair voice of the opposite point to Mike Masnicks economic free market opinions. Bob is somewhere inbetween with a lot of rambling about the general crowd here and other bait. He could actually be called a simpleton, but mostly I think he is the archetypical troll.

Mesonoxian Eve (profile) says:

The only thing copyright supporters will see is the 51% and how this translates into corn farmers who can’t feed their family or fight patent lawsuits served by Monsanto.

They’ll scream out how TD’s own supporters can’t even pay a single penny, churning out a 51% loss of potential revenue.

Chris Dodd’s probably penning his blog right now, fully prepared to ignore the obvious.

Sherman’s probably on the phone right now to whoever’s in his pockets, readying another SOPA-like bill using this data as “facts” (he’s going to add millions on the number, so be prepared).

But if there’s anything I’d like to say to all this, it’s…

… you’re welcome, TD, and thank you for standing by the practice of CwF+RtB.

Milton freewater says:

Re: Re:

“I see the 51% as typical freeloaders. These are likely the same lowlifes who pirate other content. I’d be interested to hear from the people who bought the works. I’d be willing to bet that they’re not big into infringing.”

So you see no difference between legal and illegal downloads?

You may be right.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Sorry Mildew; I see no difference in freeloading here and freeloading elsewhere. It’s all about getting something of value for nothing. I’ll bet you’re the kind of loser who goes to a high school car wash fundraiser where they accept donations- and drop a quarter into the can, if anything at all.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’d be willing to bet that they’re not big into infringing. Any takers?

Hi Mr. Anonymous Coward. My name is Josh. I’m big into infringing. I self-identify as a pirate (see my TD profile pic). I was downloading things illegally using bittorrent just last night. I also actively encourage others to break copyright law, as I see it as unnecessary in today’s world and harming the distribution of culture and ideas which could be achieved for almost no cost.

Oh, and I bought all 5 of the ebooks in the TD shop for $5 each.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

What about people who neither downloaded nor paid? In fact, what about people who paid because the books interested them, but have no connection to this site as a regular reader or contributor?

“You simply bear out my assertion about how amoral and entitled this community is.”

You heard it here first folks – if you get a free coffee at your next community meeting with the full support of those holding the meeting, you’re amoral and entitled! Don’;t let you immoral nature be seen next time you pick up a free sample at the supermarket, and god forbid you take advantage of the free Duke Nukem 3D at GOG this week without buying something else from them – it’s satanic to take a free copy without paying!

Yes, you do sound this stupid.

Steve (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Among my friends and family things are given freely and with no strings. Sometime we will insist on paying it back in full, going dutch or accepting the gift as it was intended… as a gift. As Mike says, download it and enjoy. No strings. If you are a friend/fan/participant then the assumption is that you are part of a community that is growing and giving back in one way or another. It doesn’t even ever have to be money. Just participation in the community makes it all richer. How can offering a gift and accepting a gift be amoral?

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I believe I’ve been called “amoral” because I admitted to infringing copyright, not because I paid for some content, or that the 51% downloaded something for free when it was available for free – although I seem to have been put up as the poster child for the community.

Neither of which I could care less about – there’s a sticks and stones thing.

Something that does bother me about his comment:
If he is considering copyright law, or following all laws, as moral, then he should have labelled me as “immoral” and not “amoral” – but I imagine the subtle difference between those terms would be lost on him.

Strictly speaking, I have a completely different set of morals than the AC – one of which is that it is immoral to restrict access to culture, information, and ideas when it would have no cost to provide it (or allow someone else to).

DCX2 says:

Re: Re:

Or you could see the 51% as people who never were, never are, and never will be a paying customer. No amount of DRM or other restrictions will ever convince these people to pay.

Given only the choice to pay, or go without, these people would merely go without, blissfully unaware of this content. Pay what you want allows content to be consumed as widely as possible.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Bullshit. It’s not that you literally have no money, it’s that you have elected not to spend money on this. You seem to have enough money for an internet connection, which implies that you have a place to live (though it may be Mom’s basement), which implies you have a job. And you’re too cheap to cough up a single dollar? That’s pathetic.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Buddy, there’s only one pathetic person here, and it’s the guy desperately going around trying to insult everyone who freely downloaded a free book that they were invited to download for free.

I’m officially instituting a “pay what you want to comment” program here on Techdirt. Commenting are free, but this AC is an amoral asshole if he doesn’t pay $1 each time.

Just John (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Actually, it has nothing to do with having the money or not. I guess you have never worked here. I cannot use my debit card online or overseas because of bank restrictions for foreigner accounts. I also have been unable to get a credit card because the process is convoluted and me and my wife have been unable to make it to the bank together to apply for it, especially since unlike me, she has no vacation time. So you are completely wrong in your assumptions. I can afford it, but have?no?way to give the money.

Cory of PC (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, focus on the fact that over half of those who get these e-books are getting for free, while you’re glossing over that the other 49% percent of people bought these books. Is that really not important?! This graph is showing that, while there are those out there who don’t want to pay, that other nearly-half of people out there are buying these books… and these are the same people you’re excusing of being freeloaders!

If I were to take a look at it, I can see that this is a good thing. While on a larger scale it will have an effect because even the smallest things can make a big difference. Sure it probably won’t matter to certain audiences, like the MPAA or RIAA since they have the same mindset as you, but if you get the right audience to show this to, then they are willing to go along with this plan.

This may not have an impact now, but this is a step in the right direction. There are others out there that are doing this and they are getting people. I am even going to adopt some of what TechDirt is doing here and apply it to my own works, simply because I do want to have my own audience and I do want people to read my books, while giving me some money if they like my work! I’m not some jerk who goes around telling people that they’re criminals for making copies of my stories without my permission! That’s completely stupid!

And besides, you’re an anonymous coward that’s calling us a bunch of freeloaders when you’re missing out on something good! Why should we take you seriously?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That is the whole point idiot!

You work hard for the trust and love of others and they will pay you, that is what everybody here told you and your kind a lot and you don’t seem to grasp the concept yet.

And they proved.

You work hard, create a following and those people will support you no matter what.

On the other hand if you treat people like dummies they will act like ones and get everything for free without regard to your dear feelings or laws.

out_of_the_blue says:

Ankle-biters yapping at shadows.

First, you fanboy-trolls show who has the influence here: you actually WISH for opposition to show up so you can be vile, and even do so in the absence.

2nd, if there were “lots” it would not be easy to skew the results to 51%. — Nor do I WISH the experiment to “fail”; I’m sympathetic to authors who only want some gruel, but not to grifting weenies getting millions off starving authors; and as said before, anyone is free to give away their own material. I even refrained from advising knee-pads for the required fervent praying, so as to not at all affect results (with my huge influence).

3rd, @ “AJ, OOTB, and Bob pay nothing for the copyrighted articles on this blog and they pay nothing to support the professionals who maintain these threads.” — Huh? Is the material here under active copyright after all, MIke? Or has that boob totally missed your philosophy besides statement that you’re (somehow) making a living by writing (somewhere)? Been telling ya, need a Features statement of bullet points of your beliefs: though I’ve tried for two years to glean them, your positions remain vague.

4th, I too would like a more precise number than “a lot”. That’s just weaselly, and leaves me even more in doubt. Bet if were large, they’d state it. BTW, as usual the fanboy-trolls can only see ONE side: results were more likely skewed by true believers buying “lots”, say five at a dollar each, plus running up the peak to all of $20. We don’t know, and obviously Mike ain’t gonna tell us any totals. We’re left with Techdirt’s standard baseless accusations and dimensionless “data”.

5th, why does the graphic only cover 2 days, to Dec 7? Will you at all tell us how 2nd week sales went? — We could see if the postulated try-before-buy effect is real.

6th, only “BillW” mentions buying, and (echoing an above comment in plain language) if 51% free is the response on TD (one might say, by the choir), then logout for the last time, Mike: you ain’t having any useful effect.

BTW: who’ll put all those up on TPB to “promote” them? I actually checked there for two of Timmy’s books, and they ain’t on. Why won’t someone share them? … Or are we doubters right after all: that’s a SURE way for Timmy to NOT get a cent from them?

anonymouse says:

Re: Ankle-biters yapping at shadows.

Lets get one thing out of the way, sharing is not going to stop. In fact it is going to become more and more popular as more and more people get to realsie how simple it is to share anything in digital format. The only way any of the future authors are going to be successful is to embrace it and accept it and use it to there advantage, this site has shown how it can be done, but just remember one simple point that a lot of content creators seem to forget, you have a lot of competition, there are a lot more authors being published now than every before as a result of places like Amazon.
And an important thing to remember is that for every musician or actor or author that is successful there are thousands and thousands that are working in coffee shops and McDonald’s for a living. Dont think just because you have made a good living from being an author in the past you are going to be successful in the future. Previously publishers chose who would be successful, now anyone can be if they have the right business plan for them and they accept that things have changed. I can see the legacy authors the Clive Cusslers and Stephen Kings being negatively affected, but some new authors can and should be able to make a success if they invest there time in expanding there knowledge about the internet or get someone who really knows what he is doing to market them on the internet. And remember success is not necessarily making a lot of money, to many success is if they are well known and people write about how they enjoyed reading there books.

Ophelia Millais says:

Re: Ankle-biters yapping at shadows.

I’ll just semi-respond to the last point, since that leapt out at me. So it’s not on TPB yet…sure, but doesn’t that just prove the CwF+RtB philosophy referred to on the Insider Shop page? I mean, TechDirt’s Insider Shop has positioned itself as the primary, if not exclusive distributor during the work’s period of greatest marketability, and made money doing it, without resorting to any technological or legal contrivances and finger wagging in an effort to stop piracy. All they had to do was make it available in a way that respects what people actually want (in this case: pay-what-you-want, unlocked PDF, no handing over personal info) on a site which, for other reasons, attracts an enthusiastic pool of potential consumers. The stock photo sites more-or-less get this, but last time I looked at a major publisher, label, or studio website, all I saw was a bunch of ads.

Any Mouse (profile) says:

Re: Ankle-biters yapping at shadows.

Okay, by the numbers, then.

1) This is an instance where you had the opportunity to show up and at least admit that you could be wrong. You’re not doing that, so you’re just showing yourself up to be the troll we all know and love.

2) The weenies you speak of, those would be the middle-men, yes? The publishing houses, the recording studios and their ilk? Because they ‘steal’ a hell of a lot more from artists than any infringement ever could. (Huge influence my ass.)

3) Copyright is automatic, as you well know. Otherwise the barb was rather pointless, but in the spirit of you and others accusing everyone who posts here of being a pirate.

4) I agree that numbers would be nice, but from there you just devolve into a little jerk, again.

5) No idea where you got the notion it only covers two days. It says ‘based on ebook sales as of December 7,’ which says nothing of when it started. You are suggesting that the Insider Shop started offering ebooks on the 5th, and never once before that? Care to back that up?

6) More baseless supposition attacking stated facts.

Of course, in your world everything will show up on TPB to be pirated away without a care, even if it’s already being offered legally for free.

Keep being classy.

Cory of PC (profile) says:

Re: Ankle-biters yapping at shadows.

Blue… I will never allow you to support me. I don’t want your sympathy. I don’t need someone like you supporting me as a writer when you’re going to be bashing people over how they’re downloading stuff for free when I should be getting boatloads of money.

Sure you might have a point and you sound like a legitimate supporter, but will it kill you to at least cut the nonsense out and speak like a sane person?

Paul Keating (profile) says:

How much total was received?

Mike, Can you please update the graph to show how much in total was received by all? This would be a very important aspect to the data. While I would hope it to show that the authors made a good or reasonable profit, the numbers will be what they will be and should still be disclosed. Otherwise, it is only percentages with little real meaning (at least for me).

Paul Keating (profile) says:

How much total was received?

Mike, Can you please update the graph to show how much in total was received by all? This would be a very important aspect to the data. While I would hope it to show that the authors made a good or reasonable profit, the numbers will be what they will be and should still be disclosed. Otherwise, it is only percentages with little real meaning (at least for me).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 How much total was received?

Yes, there are enough facts available to extrapolate the various totals by making some assumptions about the averages and mode provided. They would be rough and could still be an order of magnitude or so off, but it is possible to ballpark the totals from the data provided.

I could do this, but the math is so complex that I’ve patented it and would not feel comfortable sharing the algorithm without charging an appropriate licensing fee.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 How much total was received?

I assume he means the ventriloquist’s dummy. It’s very clever, you see — one of the best ways to punch up an insult is by removing it one or two steps from the core message. Like I could call him an insecure child with a tragically wrongheaded concept of where self-worth comes from, but I’d probably get bigger laughs if I said he sounds like a little girl who loses pageants to Honey Boo Boo.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: How much total was received?

I’m not sure I understand why percentages are meaningless to you. The point is to show the proportion of people who chose to pay when free was an option, which illustrates the attitudes of readers.

What would full sales figures provide, other than an excuse for the trolls to claim the whole thing is a failure (which they would do whether it was 1, 100 or 100000 downloads)?

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
16:10 David Braben, Once Angry At Used Games, Now A New Business Model Embracer (33)
18:40 Artists Embracing, Rather Than Fighting, BitTorrent Seeing Amazing Results (10)
15:41 Vodo's Big Brother Bundle Shows How Bundles Can Improve The 'Pay What You Want' Concept (12)
23:06 Price Elasticity Can Work: Dropping Ebook Price To $1 Catapulted Year-Old Book Onto NYT Best Seller List (58)
16:03 The Good And Bad In Chaotic eBook Pricing (35)
05:18 Game Creator Finds That Knockoffs Can't Match His Awesome Game (33)
23:09 The Value Of Kickstarter: Connecting With Fans On-The-Fly (18)
10:02 Massive Growth In Independent Musicians & Singers Over The Past Decade (101)
23:54 Cool New Platform For Supporting Artists: Patreon, From Jack Conte (23)
05:46 A New Hope: How Going Free To Play Brought Redemption To Star Wars MMO (48)
11:16 There Is No Logic To The Argument That Zach Braff Shouldn't Use Kickstarter (105)
06:00 When Startups Need More Lawyers Than Employees, The Patent System Isn't Working (55)
03:14 Hitchhiker's Fan-Site Started By Douglas Adams Shows Why Authors Shouldn't Panic Over Derivative Works (27)
09:21 Patents As Weapons: How 1-800-CONTACTS Is Using The Patent System To Kill An Innovative Startup (54)
07:19 How EA's 'Silent Treatment' Pushed The SimCity Story Into The Background (55)
13:30 Deftones Guitarist: People Who Download Our Music Are Fans, They're Welcome To Do So (29)
13:10 Macklemore Explains Why Not Being On A Label Helped Him Succeed (29)
03:45 Successful Self-Published Ebook Authors Sells Print & Movie Rights For $1 Million, But Keeps Digital Rights To Himself (43)
11:53 Musician Alex Day Explains How He Beat Justin Timberlake In The Charts Basically Just Via YouTube (52)
00:09 Publishers Show Yet Again How To Make Money By Reducing The Price To Zero (42)
20:13 Flattr Makes It Easier Than Ever To Support Content Creators Just By Favoriting Tweets (61)
16:03 Case Study: Band Embraces Grooveshark And Catapults Its Career (21)
19:39 Amanda Palmer On The True Nature Of Connecting With Fans: It's About Trust (131)
16:03 Kickstarter-Funded Movie Wins Oscar For Best Documentary (89)
13:41 It's Fine For The Rich & Famous To Use Kickstarter; Bjork's Project Failed Because It Was Lame (20)
17:34 Connecting With Fans In Unique Ways: Band Sets Up Treasure Hunt To Find Fan-Submitted Sounds In New Album (10)
07:27 Just As Many Musicians Say File Sharing Helps Them As Those Who Say It Hurts (131)
20:00 Skateboard Legend Stacy Peralta Demonstrates His Latest Trick: Cashing In By Going Direct-To-Fan (13)
23:58 Wallet Maker Shows Everyone How To Make Their Own Awesome Wallet (16)
11:27 $274 Million Raised Via Kickstarter In 2012 (8)
More arrow