I published my ‘work in progress’ book Music in the Digital Age yesterday and had a bit of a play around with the recommended price. The minimum, however, was zero from the outset and I was quite keen that this be the case.

On average, about a third of the people checking the book out have paid money for it. Most of them have paid $5 as suggested, though a few have paid $10 and a couple only $1. Everyone else has downloaded it for free and they’re more than welcome to. The fact that people have paid me money to make this – any amount of money at all – and have devoted their attention to the words that I’ve written so far – is incredible motivation for me to complete it, and to do whatever I can to make it as good as it can be.

I ended up having conversations about price yesterday. One centred around psychological theories about why $5 seemed to be the right ‘suggested price’ point. Nobody paid anything when the suggested price was $7.99 – but many did when it was lowered to a round number – even though at both times, you could simply type in whatever number you thought was fair and appropriate. Other conversations varied between ‘why would you give something like this away for free?’ to ‘how can you justify charging money for something you haven’t finished?’.

It’s been an interesting process and it’s challenged my own thinking about online commerce and the pricing of digital creative works. But this morning I received an email from someone who more or less encapsulated for me exactly the reasons why I wanted my book to be available for nothing – and (with permission, and anonymised) I want to share some of that email with you.

Hi Andrew

Thanks for publishing your book.

I’m finding what you’ve written so far really useful for attempting to clear my thinking prior to getting enterprising with my music-making activities this year.

We’ve got a first baby coming in the next few days (hopefully) and I’ve a bathroom to finish whilst I’ve a few small professional commissions to rely upon for income over the next few months and all this will no doubt keep me very busy. So it’s great to have someone else put into words in an organised way some of the ideas and knowledge I think about a lot and believe to be important in my work , but don’t spend much effort on organising. So big thank you again.

I wish I could pay the full price you suggest for it because what you’ve written so far is likely be worth far more to me, but for the first time in my life I’m almost properly skint! (it’s sort of freeing and a source of motivation as well as irritating and a source of worry – although I try not to let it be).

Anyway I thought a brief email to say thanks was definitely in order so here it is.

I was so happy to get that email – because it means a couple of things: first, that the book is at least on its way to being helpful and interesting to the kind of person I’d most like to be helpful to; and secondly – it confirmed my belief that ‘value’ is neither universal, nor easily represented in fixed financial terms.

Whatever your situation, I don’t want price to be an obstacle to you getting hold of my book and being part of the journey towards its completion. By the same token, if it’s of value for you, if you’re in a position to give me money and you feel that’s appropriate, then far be it from me to stand in your way.

But I’m sure as hell not going to try and stop you from reading it if you don’t happen to have a spare few bucks lying around. We’ve all been there.

Here’s the link to where you can get Music in the Digital Age for yourself. Pay whatever you think it’s worth, can afford, or feel is of value.