Pricing books as a function of risk
I've started the motions for a book that teaches computer science information to people who didn't go through a university program. This is pretty common in the field of programmers. It's one of the few knowledge-based fields where practical experience still competes against university degrees.
Where do you publish a book like this?
I came across leanpub, which is a really interesting ebook publisher and marketplace. You link your Dropbox account to their service and edit Markdown files in a folder they share with you. They take this and build a book for you in multiple formats.
One of the key things they provide is a simple landing page for your book. You provide a cover image (uploaded through Dropbox), information about your book and the author and they capture interest. On the backend, they keep a running list of those who've registered interest and how much they said they would pay. They average the prices (median and mean) and extrapolate how much they think you'd make based on those who registered interest.
So what do you charge for something like this?
Buying e-books (especially ones in such formative stages) seems like a risky proposition. You don't know if the author is actually going to deliver on the promised book. You have only their old writing (and any sample chapters) to judge their competance. Why not adjust the price according to this risk?
The way I'm pricing this book is to start at a low price and increase it over time as more of the book is finished. Those that support the work earlier (and thereby tolerate the most risk) are rewarded financially. It also serves as a strong motivation for me as the author not to let these folks down. As the book progresses through to completion, the buyers are signing up for a less and less risky endeavor.
By adjusting the price according to how finished the book is, I hope to both perpetuate my own motivation, generate interest for the book, and dampen the chances that the book won't be a successful one.