Sunday, May 27, 2007

Subscription Site Pricing

You see it everywhere on the internet these days. Subscription sites. The days of the free ride are almost over. Sites will give you a taste of what they offer for free but if you want the premium content, you have to pay for it. But how much should sites charge their visitors?

This point was brought home to me this weekend by my seven-year-old. The hot site for first-graders in the the know is ClubPenguin. You get your own penguin avatar and get to build him an igloo with cool stuff and let him waddle all over Antarctica meeting other penguins. Social networking sites for younger kids concerned me quite a bit, but after visiting the site and reading their policies, I allowed my son to sign up for the free content. But of course that wasn't enough. Oh, no. "Mommy, do you know what you can do if you pay? Mommy, it's the coolest thing. Can we pay? Please? I won't go to McDonalds ever again if we can pay! Please?" Okay, I looked at the membership price. $6 a month -- $72 a year to let my son's penguin avatar have a really great time in Antarctica. Wow, that's some penguin!

But this got me thinking about what people are willing to pay for on the internet. At FictionDB, we've priced the site like a magazine subscription. You get useful information that helps manage your real hobby -- reading. $30 a year to streamline your information gathering process seems reasonable. That's less than $3 a month -- not even the cost of one book. So why does ClubPenguin charge so much? Becasue the site itself is the hobby, the entertainment. $6 a month to entertain my son seems reasonable -- it's one less Star Wars action figure, one less trip to McDonald's. So while I was initially shocked at the price, once I really thought about it, I paid.

The internet is constantly evolving and who knows where it will go next, but for right now paying for premium content seems to be the norm.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"Your database isn't complete!"

I've written before about how I get the books that I scan for the site, but it's always interesting to me how people perceive the holes in the data. I was reading some message boards recently and saw a complaint about FictionDB regarding missing information on series books. (Yes, I know I should be thicker skinned, but it gets to me anyway) At last count there were over 180,000 individual titles and over 300,000 unique ISBN's stored in FictionDB. Over 55,000 or 1/3 of the titles have complete data. And since I just added 60,000 new titles last month, the percentage used to be better. Of course, 180,000 out of 180,000 would be better, but let's be realistic for a moment. There are over 500 new fiction titles released every month. Just keeping up with the new ones is a monumental task, let alone all the older ones.

I've been at this for years and yes, there are still holes in the data. Why? Because I haven't found the book yet! I'm down to less than 10 Loveswepts that need to be scanned. I swear I know those numbers by heart. Where are they? They're not the expensive ones -- I've scanned the Evanovichs and the Brockmanns. They are just random titles that haven't crossed my path yet.

Rest assured that we are doing everything in our power to complete each and every title in the database, but these things take time. I am lucky enough to have access to a large quantity of books from my local Friends of the Library. In fact, this month the library received a donation of over 5000 older romance novels. Of those, I took around 2000 to scan for the site. The donation was in order by publisher series number and by author, so finding the books I needed to scan was relatively simple. I carry a Treo with internet access everywhere I go. I have a barcode scanner attached to the top of it so I can tell in a second if I need the book for the site or not.

Most people understand the incredible amount of work that it takes to maintain a site like FictionDB and we appreciate your support. To all the others, I'm dancing as fast as I can!