Here's the core of Unbound's idea: It proposes a new book on its website, and people choose to "donate" a small amount of money to it, in the hope that the book gets produced. The more money you donate, the more likely the target will be reached, and the bigger "treats" you get--right up to dinner with the author. When the target is reached, writing begins and people who've funded the book get special access to a back room at Unbound's website, where they can interact in limited form with the author as the book emerges. At the end, an e-text is published and distributed, but you can also choose to get a high-quality hardback edition, printed on good paper with cloth binding for people who like their books to be weighty, well-designed, and smell like traditional books.
The more I think about this approach, the more I see it as being a potentially game changing moment in the industry. You can already self publish on the web, so it makes sense that the internet be used to connect authors more intimately with their fans/readers who would then have the option of funding future works. Apparently, it is also working:
Unbound's team was surprised at the size of the pledges: The average plede is about £30, which is a lot more than a new hardback book will set you back in a bricks-and-mortar store, and definitely more than you'd pay on Amazon.The percentage of users who choose a hard copy is running at about 40%