Vending Machine Sells Books For Whatever Price You Want

from the i'll-buy-that-for-a-dollar dept

While we've seen pay-what-you-want models work quite well for digital goods, it's still uncertain as to whether the model works for tangible goods where the marginal cost of each sold item does not approach zero. However, that doesn't mean people shouldn't try. A Brazilian company launched a line of vending machines that sell books without a set price, allowing customers to decide what they want to pay for the book. That said, it's not entirely pay what you want, since the machines require that customers put a minimum of a 2 BRL note (equivalent to about $1.17 USD) to get a book.

Initial reports claim that "sales at the promotional machines had already more than doubled within just over a month after the program’s launch, and most purchases are indeed paid with a BRL 2 note." While this sounds promising, there's no mention of how much more the books were priced before the new model was implemented, nor the profit margin beforehand. Furthermore, in looking at the vending machine, it's not apparent that customers are given any real reason why they should pay more than the minimum for the book. The books are just placed in a normal looking vending machine -- customers can't leaf through the book or even look at the back cover until after they've bought the book (and decided what to pay for it). This seems like a lost opportunity. Especially in a pay-what-you-want situation, it's still about giving customers a reason to pay more.


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  1.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 24th, 2012 @ 1:08am

    The article says they normally run 5 BRL.

    They could do more, but part of the problem looking at this from the outside is lacking the entire frame of reference to what kind of books these are.

    Are they just Wikipedia scrapes like some Kindle books?
    Are they short pulp chapters?

    This would change what people would think the value is, but failing to connect with the consumer means this machine will more often than not just get 2 BRL notes and nothing more.

    If it was a serialized book, and there was a note that said here is chapter 1, and next to it was chapter 2... and you really liked chapter 1 a note spelling out how much the author gets after they collect their printing fee of X might encourage people to support the authors they enjoyed.

    It is the start of an interesting idea, but so many factors they don't cover.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 24th, 2012 @ 3:03am

    One of the problems with all the pay what you think it's worth models is that's had to do without seeing/hearing/reading or experiencing the item. I'll pay a fraction of what I might think it's worth just to try it. After that, it's about 50/50 with some I think, "glad I didn't pay more" and "wow that was great and worth more" or I want more. No one offers a way to pay more after the original purchase.

     

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  3.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 24th, 2012 @ 3:14am

    Re:

    imagine if you put a QR code on the back of the book that when scanned let you put a "tip" into the authors tip jar. Not something where the publisher gets another cut, but direct connection between author and reader. Pick how much you want to "tip" and maybe be able to add a few lines about what you liked. A smart author would have this on a page that lists other titles they have done in the same genre.

    People are tired of the sameo sameo models where you know no matter what you actually paid, in the end only a tiny portion actually gets to the writer/singer/painter/etc. Its unlikely someone will buy the same book multiple times to show how much they liked it, but offering them a way like I suggested above might make that connection.

     

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    Bengie, Feb 24th, 2012 @ 5:16am

    Re:

    "but part of the problem looking at this from the outside is lacking the entire frame of reference"

    2LY from a 10bil solar mass blackhole. What's your frame of reference?

     

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    David, Feb 24th, 2012 @ 5:28am

    The people who paid more thought that the machine had just eaten their change I expect

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 24th, 2012 @ 5:50am

    Re: Re:

    much more focused on the books themselves, so one can gain an understanding of what it is they are actually selling.

    Imagine a machine with DVDs in it, with nothing labeled on them. Without knowing what they were would you stick $1 into the slot to get one? Would you put in more to get one? Is there a label on the machine that says pay what you want?

    Left with more questions than answers, but missing waypoints to even find the path towards and actual answer.

    I don't worry about the blackhole, I'm more worried about the Mayans.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 24th, 2012 @ 7:11am

    Sales in the first couple of months of something like this don't mean a whole lot, much of the activity could come because they are new, and because people like you are chatting about them online.

    Go back in 12 months, when the shiny is all rubbed off and the media isn't saying anything, and see what sales are like.

    Until then, it's a cute idea... and I bet most people pay the minimum.

     

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    Overcast (profile), Feb 24th, 2012 @ 7:42am

    The "traditional" business model that many think of is always about profit per item - profit margin.

    But now, with so much electronic, it should be about quantity, since so many things now can be duplicated freely.

    Even in the case of the physical books here - if they cost $0.50 to make - you can perhaps sell "X" amount at $22.95 or something - as it common in the US.

    But if you can sell them at $2.00 each and sell 100 times as many - why not? Perhaps in raw numbers, in the short term it might look like you would have made more at $22.95 - but once you foster or re-kindle the reading interest in many people, if the books are cheap - they may buy 20 times the amount they would have at $22.95 - in the long term, making even more.

    But most of these companies now a days are SO focused on the short term, that they totally ignore the long term.

    Companies today don't consider loyalty or return customers in their day to day business - the goal is to shaft the customer hard, so that even if they don't come back, you can meet your quarterly projections.

    This is why there are some companies I outright avoid totally - I don't care how 'new' or 'cool' their new product is - I know it will be junk.

     

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    Overcast (profile), Feb 24th, 2012 @ 7:45am

    Imagine a machine with DVDs in it, with nothing labeled on them. Without knowing what they were would you stick $1 into the slot to get one? Would you put in more to get one? Is there a label on the machine that says pay what you want?

    At $1.00? yeah, I might buy a couple. It's only a buck.

    Each time I go to the grocery store, I glance at the movies - I see "$14.95" or more. Then I think - well, I'm already paying for on-demand, so I'll skip that.

    How many do they sell that way? :)

    None. I'm not paying more than 10 bucks for a movie anymore - ever. Period. They are easy to duplicate and I know it.

    I may not torrent them, but I won't pay stupid prices for them either. Of course, I don't really need torrent with on-demand, plus I'm a gamer mostly anyway.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 24th, 2012 @ 7:48am

    Re:

    You are making the assumption that the total buying market is 100 times larger at the low price point then the high one. Further, you are forgetting that the margin on the 50 cent sale is pretty low... you might lose 45 cents of it to processing, accounting, maintenance, etc. "Infinite goods" aren't really infinite at all, unless you specifically don't have a business attachment to them at all.

    There is no proof that the cheap download market would be big enough to make up for the loss in hardcover sales. Further (see Glyn's story above), it is clear that Ebooks are about to undergo the same piracy revolution that hit music and movies. It's doubtful that people will pay $2 for something they can get easily for free.

     

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    Overcast (profile), Feb 24th, 2012 @ 7:58am

    it is clear that Ebooks are about to undergo the same piracy revolution that hit music and movies. It's doubtful that people will pay $2 for something they can get easily for free.

    But on that - most any book you can buy - is free, right now, at the library...

    And either way - in today's digital age, knowing how easy it is to duplicate content - I'm simply not going to pay the 'old' prices.

    Do without? Sure I will. It's not a big deal - because on the total other side of the coin - there is such a huge volume of *legit* stuff out there for free - what does it matter?

    I can often get more enjoyment out of reading blogs than a book and I can often get more enjoyment watching stuff on YouTube than paying $14.95 for a 90 minute movie.

    There are free games, free movies, free music, free books out there on the web in massive quantities. I bet I can find more free books on the web now than most brick and mortar stores have - and I'm totally talking legit content.

    And if not, the library is 5 minutes from my house. I can check out whatever I want for free.

    There are a few books I might be willing to pay more than $20.00 for - but not many.

    Over the last couple years, the only time I have paid that much for a book are technical training types of books. Otherwise, I grab them up cheap at places going out of business or used book stores.

    I went to on big chain bookstore that was closing recently - I bought a stack of cheap books, but many there were still full price - I suppose they can just keep those.

     

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    Overcast (profile), Feb 24th, 2012 @ 8:00am

    You are making the assumption that the total buying market is 100 times larger at the low price point then the high one.

    Oh - but on that - how often are 'cheap' prices tried? Are they making an assumption the market is only 'so big' but in reality, if the prices were reasonable it would be 100 times that?

    How many Harry Potter books would sell at $2.00 a copy? They'll never try it to find out, will they?

    The patient people will just wait for them to show up in used book stores - I do.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 24th, 2012 @ 10:32am

    Re:

    The issue you run across is that the total market in most things is actually very limited. Angry birds is wildly popular, yet in a population of 6 billion, they only have 500 million downloads - and that with multiple products given away for free mostly.

    The market is not unlimited.

    Harry Potter books? Well, actually, the series got quite the boost by being artificial scarce to start with. Part of the buzz was the school library having a single copy, and kids clambering to be the next one to get it. Had the book been made widely available very cheaply on the first day of release, it is very likely that any buzz would have died down quickly, and Rowling would be off working at the coffee shop to pay the bills.

     

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    Ryan Diederich, Feb 24th, 2012 @ 2:31pm

    Assumptions

    A lot of people on here make assumptions about how a particular business would run in a different situation. There is really no way to tell.

    I think many companies forget that they would sell more products at a lower price.

    I would much rather have 100 $10 sales than 10 $100 sales. 100 sales means a stronger customer base and less volatility.

     

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  15.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 25th, 2012 @ 9:55am

    Re:

    The problem is not knowing if they are blanks, movies, scrapes of wikipedia, etc.

    People who buy their movies at grocery stores tend to not be the most savvy shoppers, and they are relying on impulse for the sale.

     

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