When I was 11 years old I lived in a small town. We spent most of our time outdoors, playing in the woods or riding around aimlessly with our bicycles. Another popular activity was to go deal-hunting in the two $0.99 cent stores on main street.
Equipped with our modest allowances and an insatiable curiosity we hunted these stores for novelty products, always surprised by what $0.99 cents could buy. There were soap dispensers in the shape of cow udders, mobile battery-powered mini fans and a lot of cheap tools that would break after using them once or twice.
Needless to say, these stores were far from glamour and our fascination with them was frowned upon. Their dusty shelves were carelessly crammed with crates overflowing with cheap trinkets (ordered in a way no mortal could fathom) and the names of these stores weren’t even making an effort to conceal that.
Buying Ebooks or Songs is Like Popping Peanuts
Cut to the year 2012. The $0.99 deal is back with some shiny new clothes.
Whether it’s songs on iTunes or ebooks Amazon, the $0.99 cent model revolutionized the way we think about online purchases. If buying a car is a drawn-out process of carefully deliberating pros and cons, purchasing ebooks or songs is like popping peanuts, the pain of parting with our hard-earned cash made invisible in the immediate gratification of one-click-checkouts and zero shipping time.
Lately, I’ve seen this trend even applied to online language learning lessons, where English teachers sell a seat in their course for a dollar.
Pride And Prejudice In Micro-Economies
“An English lesson for $0.99? That can’t be good, can it?”
“Selling a book for $0.99? The author must have low self-confidence.”
“A song for $0.99? But that destroys record stores”
As much as people like to complain about the alleged devaluation that comes with the $0.99 model, their opinions are based on a comparison of the old world where a book, song, lesson entailed a whole galaxy of contextual costs including but not limited to production and distribution.
To make an ebook, not a single drop of ink has to be spilled. To hold an online class, no rent or maintenance bill has to be paid.
By lowering prices, content creators aren’t losing value. They are, in fact, adding to it because not only are they winning customers who wouldn’t look at their class or book if it came at a premium price, they also get to create a taste for more!
The new publishing model is not about quick sales (although that can happen, too). It’s all about creating a platform, a community of people who trust you and won’t just be willing to purchase more premium goods but will even recommend you to their friends.
It’s like a theme-park. The most important part is to get people inside your world.
Why not lower the bar at the entrance booth?