The most recent Humble Bundle DRM-free distribution offer, the Humble eBook Bundle, closed a day or so after a two-week run. Here is some background:
What is the Humble Bundle? It is our take on digital distribution, where anyone can pay any amount of money they like for great DRM-free cross-platform products. (Previous Humble Bundles distributed music and video games.)
The result of the two-week ebook bundle distribution: 84,219 downloads of a DRM-free cross-platform bundle of ebooks, worth $1,202,871.71, with an average contribution of $14.28. Some of the proceeds will go to the authors, some will be directed to three charities—the Electronic Frontier Foundation is one—and some to support the distribution platform. Authors include Cory Doctorow and Neil Gaiman. I think it’s fair to describe the bundle genre generally as speculative fiction, with titles of young adult fiction, graphic novels, and comics collections.
The price of a bundle is set by its consumer. A few ebook titles were unlockable only after payment greater than the average amount paid. The Humble Bundle blog instructed: “for two weeks, you can pay whatever you want to get … six digital, DRM-free books,” including Doctorow’s Pirate Cinema. “If you choose to pay more than the average, you will also receive” seven other titles, including Gaiman and Dave McKean’s Signal to Noise. And further:
All these books are DRM-free and work great on your computer, eBook reader, tablet, and many other mobile devices!
Now here’s a thought likely still in the realm of fantasy and speculative fiction—or, say, speculative non-fiction: Could such a plan be realizable for commercial law books? Is distribution of pay-what-you-want, DRM-free, multiple-format bundles of legal publications a conceivable model?
CALI, with its free eLangdell digital books for legal education is there in real-life. But in what level of fantasy can we imagine a commercial legal publisher ever using such a model, for any constituency? Doctorow et al. achieved download value of over $1.2 million with about 84,000 downloads in two weeks. What could one of the big legal publishers do with, say, a DRM-free ebook download bundle of annotated statutes, core texts, or reference tools? What about to non-profits, small firms, libraries, students? And, naturally, bundling in a locked legal-equivalent of Gaiman to boost the price.
Wait: commercial legal publishing, DRM-free, pay-what-you-want? Now I can’t decide whether this fantastic Humble proposal is, rather, a modest one.