Tomely: a DRM-free, name-your-price ebook bundle for tech books


For the record, readers set the price, as long as price is at least $5. Which, in my current financial state, is more than I’m willing to risk on a bunch of authors I’ve never heard of before.

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Hey waterloonie! I’m one of the co-founders of Tomely. In the future, we’d love love love to drop the minimum price.

This is one of our first bundles, and it can be difficult to convince publishers (that aren’t necessarily as forward-thinking as, say, Tor) to get on board with these kinds of programs. Many zone out as soon as you even mention “DRM-free”, let alone “$0 minimum”. As we gain the trust of publishers and authors, we’ll be in a stronger position to set terms which benefit everyone. (For the record: some of the books in our bundle are available DRM-free for the first time, which we consider a huge win!)

For now, if you’d like, send us an email ( and we’ll gladly hook you up with a bundle.

Very generous of you, Team Tomely.

Yeah, $5 is pretty cheap for all this content. When you read the Amazon reviews on these books, they’re all universally great. (I’m biased obviously).

I ponied up because I’m a sucker for non-drm infected epubs and the subject matter is inside my sweet-zone. At a little over a dollar a book for nine books (I won’t do the twitter/facebook thing) its worth a try.

Thank you, Coyoteblue!

Book bundles, no drm, tech themed, Australian startup, charity.

Any three of those would have lured me in, using all 5 at once is just unfair.


I don’t believe I said anything about wanting this for free. But there is a difference between “pay what you can” and “pay what you can, so long as it’s over an amount we decide.” That’s known as a “reserve” in the auction world.

What annoys me is the surprise nature of the minimum charge. It’s not mentioned anywhere. It’s only discovered when you set the amount to be lower than the minimum.

There is a good way to encourage minimum amounts and a bad way. This is the bad way. For an example of a good – nay, brilliant – way, go check out the weekly Humble Bundle and set the amount to less than $1. I swear, the resulting dialogue should be in a design best practices gallery somewhere.

Incidentally, the amount I put in wasn’t $0. It just happened to be less than $5.

Good point. Maybe there should be a disclaimer about the minimum $5. Even still, $5 is, to me, extraordinarily cheap for novels that professional writers worked very hard on. Novels that needed to be edited, designed, and marketed. I’m curious though, if you put if $3 or $2, did the few extra dollars really sway your decision?

Fair question. My answer is that the value being offered to me (emphasis on “to me”) is extremely low. I have no doubt professional writers (and editors, and designers, and artists, and myriad other professionals, lest we forget them) have worked hard on these books. But my decision on how much a product is worth to me isn’t based on the amount of time it took to make – it’s based on how much it’s worth to me. The authors – or, more likely, publishers – have the freedom to offer the product to me at a particular price. I, in turn, have the freedom to buy it, or not, at that price.

So, what is this particular offering worth to me? As I said above, very little. I have some 500 unread books – that’s physical books – sitting on my shelves. I also have a bias in favour of physical books over electronic ones, which puts the likelihood of my reading any of the ebooks in this bundle at somewhere just a tad above zero. If I was being completely rational about this, I’d have put in the price at $0, not the $1 I actually tried for. But given that my having these books on hand creates a non-zero chance of my reading them and remembering the names of the authors in the future, there is some value to the authors of my getting these books even if I pay nothing at all. If I’m prepared to pay $1 for them, though? That’s a non-zero amount of money they’re receiving from me. Does that not beat the alternative?

So if even $1 would be a disproportionately high cost for the value I expect to receive, why not $5? After all, the two are mighty close, right?

I suspect this is in part because I’ve been habituated to the $1 by the Humble Bundle – it’s what I tend to put in when the bundle comes up and I have little to no interest in any of the items on offer. In part it’s because of the prices where I am – a very rural area. $5 will get you a good meal. $1 will get you, maybe, a candy bar. $1 is also worth about 8 minutes of work at minimum wage ($7.25 in my corner of the US). $5 is about 40 minutes. But this is really me trying to retroactively figure out my immediate response, not necessarily what actually prompted that response. The bottom line is, $1 doesn’t feel like a lot of money to throw away on a whimsical expense (and I do like the whole concept of pay what you can bundles), whereas $5 does.

But there is one other consideration: The whole idea of “pay what you can” kind of falls apart once you start setting hard limits on it. I initially criticised Tomely setting a hard minimum amount in a non-obvious way, but the more I think about it, the less I like the combination of “pay what you can” with a hard minimum. It’s a bit like a retailer saying “Oh, it’s $5, but if you want to give us extra money, go ahead.”

Makes me wonder if Tomely conducted some user testing and discovered other people had the same reaction, but couldn’t make the business model work without a guaranteed $5 payment, so they made it hidden. I might have done the same thing were I in their shoes. After all, the people who are looking to pay less than $5 aren’t their primary focus in any case – and everyone else would never find out about the restriction.

That is very kind of you. Thank you both for the reply and look behind the curtain and for making the offer itself.

No worries! Hopefully you’ll check out future bundles as we refine the mechanics. Our experience with this one has given us pretty compelling stats we can use to make the case to authors/publishers that we can at very least drop the hard minimum (in other words, we can now tell publishers for sure that most people are voluntarily paying $x, where $x is enough for participation in the bundle to be worth their while).

I think the goal, for us, is to enable many different kinds of readers to discover and enjoy new work and to support authors to the degree that they’re able. Any future decisions we make will always be to those ends. :slight_smile:

Loved the idea and the books. As a writer myself, this kind of DRM-free and pay-what-you-can type of bundles always gets my support. I just wish I can join bundles like this but as a non-English writer (specifically in Turkish) I can’t find bundles to join.

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