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Old 03-01-2013, 09:34 AM   #1
fjtorres
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Freebie/buy, Download/read ratios

A recent article at the Digital Reader Blog about a very WAG-ish estimate of the size of the iBookstore got me thinking:

http://www.the-digital-reader.com/20...llion-dollars/

One of the key points of discussion revolved around the ratio of downloads to purchases in ebookstores, which is (of course) reflective of buyer behavior. The number quoted, with some authority, is 100 (freebie) downloads per buy. (I'm assuming downloads includes both sample chapters and full free ebooks.)

For some readers, 100 to 1 is obviously very low and for others ridiculously high. But I'm curious to see if that sounds about right for a general average. Because that does have serious implications about the ebook business as a business.

For example, because book visibility becomes a series of checkpoints; catching eyeballs, catching mindshare, catching downloads, catching reads (which can be sample chapters, library checkouts, or full freebie reads), and catching actual sales. A process like that will (economically) favor series writers and/or writers with deep backlists readily available over newcomers or less prolific writers.

So my questions:
1- How reasonable does 100 to 1 downloads to buys sound? Should it be higher? Lower? Is it likely to go higher or lower?

2- What is your download to read ratio? For casual readers I'm pretty sure the download to read ratio will be pretty much the same as the buy ratio, but what about the avid experienced ebook readers? Hoarders aside, sooner or later the frenzy of free reads tends to moderate, right? And tracking down further content from known-good authors would drive down the download to buy ratio and download to read ratios.

I'm thinking that those ratios are going to have a lot to do with how the ebook business looks like moving forward and having an idea of how good downloads are as a proxy for sales and for actual reads is going to be critical to discussions about library ebooks, piracy, and pricing.

Any takers?

Last edited by fjtorres; 03-01-2013 at 09:37 AM.
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Old 03-01-2013, 09:42 AM   #2
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I've been a shareware author for more years than I care to remember, and in the shareware business, a 1% registration ratio (ie 1 sale for every 100 downloads) is regarded as extremely good. I don't know if this translates directly to ebooks, but it's probably at least valid as an order of magnitude indicator. There are lots of people out there who just like to collect free stuff.
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Old 03-01-2013, 09:45 AM   #3
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I would say my download to read ratio is 100:97; I've pretty much tuned out freebies (there are too many of them, and it is mostly noise to me).

Edit: Since I've gotten my first reader (a couple of years ago), I read ~60 books per year.
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Old 03-01-2013, 09:50 AM   #4
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I've always treated the freebies as I would paid books and only get the ones I think I'm (hopefully) going to enjoy reading. For anything I've really liked, I'll go and see what else the author has available to buy, and the name goes on my list of authors to check periodically for new stuff.
I have *far* more paid books than freebies

Edit: I read around 200 books a year

Edit 2: Had a look through my Calibre library:
18% are "promo" freebies
11% are out of copyright free classics

Last edited by Yolina; 03-01-2013 at 01:03 PM.
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Old 03-01-2013, 09:51 AM   #5
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I should add to my previous post that, speaking personally, price is simply not a factor in my reading. If I want to read something, I read it, regardless of the price. I'd guess my ratio is probably something like 70:30 between bought commercial books and free out-of-copyright classics.
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Old 03-01-2013, 10:03 AM   #6
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When I got my first ereader (2010) I went on a free books spree. There seemed to be a lot of good stuff offered then - promoting ebooks, I suppose. I probably downloaded about 1200 books that year.
But after the first year I realized I had a ton of stuff I might never get around to reading & got more selective.
Right now I think I get about 1 free ebook and 1 or 2 paid ones a week. call it 60/40 paid/free.

I read approx. 3-4 books a week, average.
Edit: At least one of the 3-4 books a week is usually a re-read.
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Old 03-01-2013, 10:16 AM   #7
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I've picked up a lot of freebies (both for myself, and just for my personal records of the official publisher promo things offered so I know what's a repeat) and have read considerably less than 1% of just the publisher promo stuff.

But for those things which I did read and liked, I have a very good follow-up buy-further-in-series/other-items-from-author-or-imprint ratio of somewhere in the neighbourhood of 60%+, going by my previous years' read lists in the Reading Recs forums.

Of course, I'm fairly picky about what I actually do start to read and finish (allowing for the occasional indulgence in total crackfic), so that probably accounts for some of it, as I tend to choose reading freebies which I'd normally have reasonably high interest in if they showed up as library books.
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Old 03-01-2013, 10:29 AM   #8
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nevermind

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Old 03-01-2013, 11:39 AM   #9
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I'm just the opposite of their average - maybe 1 freebe for every 100 or so books I buy. I read about 200 books a year, and price is an object, but I also have fairly narrow tastes and stringent requirements about what I read, so I tend to stick with books that have been recommended to me by a friend or a trusted reviewer. I still have an incredible backlog!
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Old 03-01-2013, 11:48 AM   #10
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Ratios for the last two years, according to my calibre tagging:

Total Acquired:Bought
100:30
70% of acquired books were freebies

Total Read:Bought Read
100:60
40% of books read were freebies

I don't know how indicative these numbers are of my norm, because there are two factors that were present last year that won't be this year - the Harlequin sale, and Fictionwise coupon codes. Both of those probably inflated last year's "buy" numbers beyond the previous year. However, this year my disposable income will be higher, so it may end up about the same anyway.

I do not count sample downloads, as they don't go into calibre. Free books are from a variety of sources, and include a large number of shorts and novellas.

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Old 03-01-2013, 11:54 AM   #11
fjtorres
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
I've been a shareware author for more years than I care to remember, and in the shareware business, a 1% registration ratio (ie 1 sale for every 100 downloads) is regarded as extremely good. I don't know if this translates directly to ebooks, but it's probably at least valid as an order of magnitude indicator. There are lots of people out there who just like to collect free stuff.
Odds are it is equally valid. At the very least. Once you factor hoaders (and the fact that the ratio includes samples) I wouldn't be shocked if Amazon came out and said it is 200-300 to 1. (Might be one of the reasons for the pressure on the pure free ebook sites.)

The thing is, there are many authors and publishers from the traditionalist world who don't get the difference beween hoarding and reading and see every unpaid download (whether from an ebookstore or... elsewhere) as a guaranteed lost sale. And similarly assume that every ibrary checkout is displacing a guaranteed sale.

Having a rational discussion on those subject requires credible, commonly accepted metrics. So far it looks like 1% might be a good starting point as long as its understood that it is an average.
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Old 03-01-2013, 12:16 PM   #12
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When I first got an e-reader I might have had a 100 free to 1 paid ratio, because I was amazed at how many free books there were and wanted them all. Then I read them and found that most of the free ones aren't any good. Occasionally there's a good one but I have to hear some good reviews before I download free books anymore. Now I pay for almost all the books I get. I don't care that much how much they cost, but I only want a book if there's a reasonable chance I'll like it.
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Old 03-01-2013, 01:15 PM   #13
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My ratio for GetBook and ReadBook is 1:1.

If I'm not sure that I will read it in the near future, I don't even download it. My ratio between bought books and free classics changes quite a lot from month to month. I don't know what this ratio is.

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Old 03-01-2013, 01:26 PM   #14
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I don't know about averages, but 100 to 1 is ridiculously high for me. Even if I factor in sample chapters (which I'm not nuts about lumping in with "freebies" anyway), I still purchase many more books than I download for free. I'd say I'm in the 5 to 1 category the other direction, actually. Five purchases for every freebie downloaded.
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Old 03-01-2013, 01:46 PM   #15
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I don't know about averages, but 100 to 1 is ridiculously high for me. Even if I factor in sample chapters (which I'm not nuts about lumping in with "freebies" anyway), I still purchase many more books than I download for free. I'd say I'm in the 5 to 1 category the other direction, actually. Five purchases for every freebie downloaded.
The sample chapters may not be "freebies" in the fullest sense but they are downloads and most sites generally count trial games and samples as downloads for the purpose of calculating conversion ratios.
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