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5 Reasons For TED To Lower TEDbook Subscription Pricing
July 26, 2012 - 9:00pm

Probably the closest that I'll get to being invited to give a TED Talk is Chris Anderson tweeting about something that I wrote. Last week, in response to my critique that $14.99 is too expensive for a 6 book / 3 month TED book subscription (through TED's new iOS app), Chris tweeted from @TEDchris,

"Is $15 too much for 22 short, multimedia enabled books?!"


(Actually, Chris - if you are listening. I have some thoughts about what the university will look like in 2030 that I think would make a pretty darn good TED Talk. Have your people call my people).

To answer Chris' tweet directly with a blog (what is the world coming to?), I'd say that:

1. Sure, $14.99 is a great deal for 22 books. But what TED is offering is 6 books for $14.99, once the extra-special-awesome-limited-time-and-yet-there's-more offer expires. I've actually purchased a bunch of the TED books from Amazon for my Kindle (the one's that I wanted), so the subscription deal is not a deal for me.

2. But … you are on to something with the subscription model. The regular revenue of a subscription, combined with the gathering of subscriber data that can be re-sold (and if you subscribe you agree to this deal) won old be two valuable assets. The key is to price your subscription so you compensate the subscriber for giving you her money in advance, giving you a regular stream of income, and yet giving you her (anonymized) data that can be re-sold.

3. How much should the subscription cost? I assume that amongst all those fabulous TEDsters you have one or two people from the media industry qualified to answer this question (did you ask them?). My back-of-the-blog calculations would put an annual subscription at  $26. None of this 3 month stuff. If you draw out the supply and demand curves I bet you find that you and your authors make more money on this model than your current pricing or a la carte system.   

4. The magic of digital means that the marginal cost of each additional book is zero, so you want to push pricing low enough to reach the most readers.  Books conform to network rather than scarcity economics, like your TED talks they increase in value the more people interact with them.  Your authors might even prefer a wider reach than a few extra dollars, but I'm betting lower subscription costs will allow you to have both more reach and more revenues.

5. A lower subscription price would put the heat on Amazon's Kindle Single business. Right now your catalogue of TED books is too small to push Amazon to do much of anything. A subscription model, particularly a compelling subscription model, might wake Amazon up to the potential of this business model. A strategy in which TED pushed Amazon (and maybe Apple or others) to innovate in the publishing space would worth celebrating. The only thing better than TED catalyzing innovation in publishing would be TED catalyzing innovation in higher ed.

NOTE: The TED people asked that I make clear that they don't sell data to anybody. This is my thought as a method to lower the TEDBook prices, and only as an "opt-in."

What (short, digital, multimedia, nonfiction) book are you reading?

This reader will be on vacation starting today for a bunch of days (and disconnected from all electronic devices - which means no TED books), but looking forward to seeing you all later in August.


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