Got into an interesting debate about my last post: How I Doubled My Revenue By Breaking Up With Amazon.
This author seemed appalled at the notion that I would offer my customers the option to buy a PDF version of one of my books.
Even though the data told me it would reach more people, he simply didn’t get it.
“OK, I’m mystified. Why would anyone in their right mind want a PDF version of an ebook? …It’s terrible for e-reading unless you have a large screen, high resolution tablet. It’s the format commonly used on pirate book websites because it’s easy to scan a printed book and easy to conceal malware in it.”
Now, there are some interesting assumptions going on here.
First of all, asking “why would anyone in their right mind want a PDF version” is a bit judgmental.
It seems obvious that he thinks nobody should. But that doesn’t mean everyone does.
People have preferences. In this case, they even have revealed preferences so if I have an economic theory on my side, I’m pretty confident.
Now, if you read the article, you’ll know that 40% of my customers (in their right mind or not), prefer a PDF version as opposed to a Kindle version.
Maybe they don’t like shopping on Amazon. Maybe the Kindle store isn’t available in their country. Maybe they prefer supporting me personally.
Maybe they simply prefer a PDF and that’s fine.
As a bonus, they also get the MOBI version of the book if they download the PDF, so buying the PDF is actually more valuable and flexible than buying through Amazon.
When I tell him I’m just giving the customer what they want, he tells me:
“Perhaps more authors need to educate their readers. EPUB and MOBI files are easier to read on a computer screen also. They can also be read on a tablet and a smartphone too. The only time a PDF has any advantage is when there is a significant graphic content which must be precisely aligned with the text.”
This is where I start having a problem with his business sense. It’s a futile effort to educate a customer on what they should want. They want what they want, regardless of what you want them to want.
I’ll be honest. I originally sold my eBook exclusively through Amazon, and I did to try to educate my readers. I told them they could use all the apps they needed to read my Kindle book in that format.
It’s often a losing proposition to force a customer to do something they didn’t want to do in the first place. Who am I to argue what advantage it has if it has an advantage for them?
If you don’t have what they want, they’ll go somewhere else. You’re making the selling process harder on you for no real reason other than your ideology. That’s great and all, you stick to your guns. But it’s not great business.
If you’re selling something innovative then you’ll need some education to go along with it to make the reader understand why they need what you’re selling.
But we’re selling books. You’ve heard of books right? Information in linear form that you consume by turning pages? If the author does it right, you’ll feel like the time reading was well spent. Hardly innovative.
Then he ends with this interesting kicker:
“Yesterday I found 23 sites offering pirate pdf copies of my books. I’ve stopped publishing in that format.”
The sad truth about this fact is that none of the people hanging out on those sites are your customers. You didn’t lose money from them that they would’ve used to purchase your product. They would never have purchased anyway if all they’re doing is looking for stuff for free.
Worrying about finding my books on pirated websites? I’m sorry, but I have more important things to think about.
When it comes to online piracy, especially around my books, I subscribe to Tim Ferriss’s ideology:
“If someone is willing to spend time finding a legit bootleg source and reading a DRM-broken hard-to-read copy of my book on a computer screen not intended for reading, just to avoid spending $12 or so, they weren’t ever my core audience to begin with”
Look at it like free advertising that you don’t lose money on because the marginal revenue of a digital book is zero. If somebody downloaded it and liked it, maybe they’ll become your fan later down the line when they’ve wised up and starting shelling out the negligible amount of money for a book.
Unless you can prove that thousands of actual customers downloaded your books illegally, this is an entirely moot point.
At the end of the day, I thought it would serve my customers better to give them what they wanted. And the sales followed.
I’d rather take an extra 220% increase in sales every month than worry about eBook formatting and be paranoid about piracy.