You may have noticed I haven’t posted anything at The Digital Reader lately. It was a fun run, but sometimes things just don’t work out. Fortunately, Dan Eldridge was kind enough to extend an offer to me to write here again, and I’m happy to be back where I was for six years before leaving. Here’s to at least another six!









And it’s almost as if current events were welcoming me back, because what should happen on the day of my return but one of the things I’ve been either calling for or predicting (depending on how much prescience you’re willing to give me credit for) for months now: The Humble Bundle goes e-books!

And wow, does it ever. The current Humble Bundle, the “Humble eBook Bundle,” offers six DRM-free multi-format e-books for paying whatever price you want—even as little as one penny (plus two bonus titles for paying more than the current average). Through a system of sliders, purchasers may split the distribution of their purchase amount however they desire among the authors, the usual Humble charities of the EFF and Child’s Play plus the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Association (SFWA), or a tip for the site administrators.

The titles include:

  • Pump Six by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
  • Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow
  • Invasion by Mercedes Lackey et al (which I reviewed here)
  • Magic for Beginners and Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link

The bonus titles for beating the average (currently $11.66) are

  • Signal to Noise by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean
  • Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

I always knew that if the Humble Bundle did something like this, they’d do it with their ever-present style and panache. When they did all those bundles of indie video games, and that bundle of music, they didn’t pick titles, studios and artists no one had ever heard of. They chose some fairly well-known independent titles. The most recent one even included highly popular Diablo-play-alike Torchlight, just in time for its sequel to come out.

Compared to this, the offerings from Humble e-book copycats Storybundle and Snug Nugget come off as decidedly lackluster. I hadn’t heard of a single one of the authors either of them had on offer. But from Humble: Doctorow! Lackey! Gaiman & McKean! Scalzi! And my on-line circle of friends had heard of the others. Not only are they major names, but they still have pretty good indie cred, too.

Even the pro-published ones generally have indie roots, such as Scalzi, who has one of the great posting-his-novel-free-online success stories, or the Lackey book, which began life as a podcast before any publisher expressed interest in picking it up. And, of course, Old Man’s War and Pirate Cinema (and perhaps some of the others? I haven’t checked the provenance of each one) come from Tor, who recently ditched all DRM in its sales.

Of course, some of these books can be had legitimately for free—the Lackey from a Fifth Imperium Baen CD, and Doctorow makes every one of his books available on his site for free including this one. And many of these books are short story collections, meaning those who prefer longer works will find less to attract them. But still, it’s a great way to get a good batch of reads.

Other interesting notes: Doctorow says Tor is donating its share of proceeds from this sale to the SFWA medical fund. And on Twitter, John Scalzi says that “if today’s purchases were counted by the NYTimes, all of the authors would be on the bestseller list.” It seems people like them some indie e-books.

Over on The Digital Reader, Nate Hoffelder seems rather blasé about the idea. He thinks “content bundles aren’t that novel anymore,” since everyone seems to be doing them these days. He thinks they’ll kick into being a huge fad, then die out again once everyone gets sick of them. I’m frankly rather doubtful. Baen’s bundle sales have been decently successful for the company, but largely appeal to people interested in its books already. Snug Nugget apparently did rather terribly, at least judging by one of the comments to Nate’s post about it.

You actually have to have a few of these offers set the world on fire for it to look like it’s starting to become a fad. So far, about the only one to have done that has been the Humble Bundle. Of course, once the DoJ settlement goes into effect, we’ll see additional incentives for publishers and retailers alike to start offering bundles, and we’ll see how it goes then. But for now, the Humble Bundle seems to be doing pretty well.

At the time I’m writing this, almost 19,300 bundles have been sold, and over $225,000 has been taken in. The average amount of purchase is $11.69—which is a good two or three dollars more than the average I remember for most of their video game bundles. So it looks like the Humble Bundle has again earned the right to be proud. Even if it would still rather be Humble.

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  1. @Chris: Wonderful seeing you again on the TeleRead site. Funny story:

    Since Dan had requested an updated bio from me, I was browsing through the “About” page to make sure my forthcoming contribution to it would blend in. I noticed your listing there and thought, “Gosh, I’d better remind Dan to zap it since Chris is now writing instead for another good e-book blog.” Then I read the above post and fully absorbed the welcome reality of the Meadows byline. Guess you two were ahead of me.

    You’re both talents, and thanks to you and the likewise gifted Joanna, TeleRead’s institutional memory is alive and well. Meanwhile, Dan has been a fast learner and, as I’d hoped, has added his own wrinkles to the blog. TeleRead is in the hands of true pros.

    Yours toward many more than six years here of you, Dan and Joanna,


    David Rothman
    Founder, TeleRead

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