humblelogoRemember the Humble E-Book Bundles? Humble’s done a couple of them (not counting the ones by other bundle sites) plus an audiobook bundle, and wants to do more. Calvin Reid has a great article at Publishers Weekly looking at the Humble Bundle e-book program in depth. It has some interesting facts.

It turns out that the first two pay-what-you-want Humble E-Book Bundles were actually organized by Cory Doctorow. Not a big surprise given their DRM-free nature. The problem was that DRM-free nature meant Macmillan (whose Tor subsidiary had already gone DRM-free) was the only Big Five publisher willing to work with them. But the bundles raised about $2 million altogether to split among the authors, which Doctorow said “was free money, sums that represented a year’s mortgage and more for most of our authors.”

Humble has hired an actual director of e-books, Kelley Allen. The company wants to do regular e-book promotions, including bundling them with audiobooks. It is talking with New York publishers, who by and large haven’t heard of Humble, “but after they hear about the numbers we get, and the dollars, they begin to pay attention,” Allen says.

Other interesting factoids:

  • Most people who buy the bundles don’t bother to change the standard 65%/20%/15% creators/charity/site fee split, so generally everyone ends up getting paid something.
  • 25% of all people who visit the site make a purchase.
  • Big gaming publishers who have participated have seen regular sales go up during the bundles as customers get interested in those publishers’ other games, too. (This seems to match what Valve has found in its own Steam sales: putting games on sale generates buzz, which in turn generates more sales at regular price.)

It should be interesting to see what comes out of this as Humble brings more titles to its e-book and audiobook game. As the article points out, there’s no reason why this approach shouldn’t work with any form of digital media. So who knows what we might see next? We’ve seen games, music, books, audiobooks—about all we haven’t seen yet are digital movies. I wonder if they’ve given that any thought? Maybe get the boys at Rifftrax to kick in something, and independent filmmakers looking for a boost…

Anyway, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. As a reminder, the current Humble Bundle, with 9 games including the really popular titles Guacamelee!, Dust: An Elysian Tale, and The Swapper, has just over 17 hours left to run at an average price of $4.70 at the time I’m writing this. Drop by the site and check it out.


  1. Thanks for posting this, Chris! I love the Humble Bundle model and have often lamented that they don’t do more of them. They keep sending me promos for the games ones, which don’t interest me.

    What I have found interesting about these bundles is that on both occasions I bought, there was a certain title I primarily wanted, and then I would read a different one from the bundle after it, and find I liked it better. I have been exposed to a few new authors this way!

    I hope they do go ahead and release these more regularly. I would definitely buy them!

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