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How Humble Bundle Is Changing The Landscape Of Digital Goods

We believe that of you simply treat the customer with respect, then they will reciprocate in kind. With the help of Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow among others, we are testing this idea.
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The Humble ebook Bundle works on a revolutionary pay-what-you-want scheme, to raise money for authors and charities. The offer ends on Tuesday, and has so far raised more than $960,000. Click here to pick up your DRM-free editions. UPDATE: The Humble Bundle has now topped $1 million in sales.

Last week in The Guardian Cory Doctorow explained in detail how DRM [Digital Rights Management] and price discrimination are sullying how we interact with music, movies, games, and books. He poignantly expressed how, in their transition from the physical to the digital space, publishers and distributors are seemingly going out of their way to make life difficult for the consumer.

"People are especially resentful of their neighbours or friends abroad paying radically different prices. And in order to make this kind of limited-use model work, the entertainment industry had to deploy DRM - software that lurked in the customers' devices, ready to swim to the fore and intone 'I can't let you do that, Dave,' any time a purchaser wanted to do something outside of the deal they'd been offered."

Humble Bundle though, in his opinion, was one company that was getting it right. Historically a company operating in the independent gaming space, Humble Bundle has been experimenting with a simpler, more honest approach to selling digital goods. This is what led to our collaboration for the first-ever Humble eBook Bundle.

However, we had two requirements that made this an exceptionally challenging proposition. The first was no DRM, a requirement that is practically heresy in the eBook industry. One exception to this is Tor, Cory's publisher for his newest title, Pirate Cinema, which he chose to feature in this promotion. The second requirement was pay-what-you-want, a scheme that removes the guaranteed return that few publishers were willing to embrace.

What Humble Bundle has believed since their launch in 2010 is if you simply treat the customer with respect, then they will reciprocate in kind. It was a risk for sure, but a risk everyone involved felt was worth taking. With the help of Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, John Scalzi, Paolo Bacigalupi, Lauren Beukes, Mercedes Lackey, and Kelly Link, Cory and Humble Bundle were able to stand together and see just how a promotion like this would perform.

And what a performance it has been. At the time of this writing the Humble eBook Bundle has brought in nearly $970,000 from over 68,000 customers in just nine days. Customers also have the choice to donate to charities such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Emergency Medical Fund for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and Child's Play. With the addition of the webcomics xkcd, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, and Penny Arcade in the second week, the reception has been utterly fantastic. The authors are thrilled, publishers are shocked, customers are thankful, and Humble Bundle is... well, humbled.

As a small team based out of San Francisco, the founders originally came up with this idea when, as previous game developers, they wanted a better way to sell their game directly to their loyal community of fans. Sixteen wildly successful promotions later, Humble Bundle has made a splash in the eBooks space that cannot be ignored. The authors' willingness to shuck their proverbial dust covers has been rewarded handsomely by people deciding for themselves how much their books are worth.

And the conclusion at the end of the day? Can you reliably distribute someone's works to the world without DRM? Will customers actually pay a meaningful price for something when given the option to set their own? The answer, which we hope to keep proving with every new promotion, is a resounding yes.

Visit to buy your bundle.

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