Unbound – Crowdfunding for Books a different sort of eCommerce

As we saw last month with JustFab an eCommerce site doesn’t have to be like a normal shop with lots of products at different prices. This blog is about Unbound, a different sort of bookshop.

unboundUnbound is a website on which you can buy books.

But it’s a bit different – they only stock books they have published, and (usually) when you buy the book you have to wait several months for it to arrive.

That’s because it’s actually about crowdfunding unusual writing projects.

How it works

An author (sometimes well known, sometimes totally unknown) creates a pitch for their book idea (could be fiction or non-fiction). The public can then choose to fund one of the books, once the funding total is reached the author begins to create the book which is only delivered once it is finally published.

Fairly straight forward? Yes. And once it’s finally published you can buy the book off-the-shelf.

What can other eCommerce businesses learn from Unbound?

Well, the crowdfunding model for one is an interesting idea that’s being used by a number of other eCommerce businesses already (including Made.com). There are few more things in the way they operate that could be used by any eCommerce business – even if you’re a straight forward pay and get it site!

Ever increasing pricing options

You may be thinking that a book is a book is a book – well it isn’t on Unbound. Here when you pledge (buy) towards a book you have a choice of how much you pledge and what you get in return. Often there are customised covers, launch party invites, and even the chance to dictate the content of the book. The cost can be from just £10 up to a few thousand.

unbound pricing options

How can you use this in a normal eCommerce business? Well probably not for every single product!! But you could add custom packaging, limited edition gifts, events that are either on specific special products OR on orders placed.

Percentage Count Downs

I think these are design genius.

unbound percentage

These pie graphics make it so easy to see how close a project is to being fully funded. And yes it does go higher than 100%.

We all know that “must end soon”, and “last chance to buy” are great calls to action – so why not have sold-out countdowns like this on your products?

Using Content to build the product and justify the prices

unbound basic pricesYou can’t buy any book on Unbound for less than £10.

You can’t buy a physical book on Unbound for less than £20.

Yep, that’s right – the ebooks are £10.

Buy you’re not really buying the book, you’re buying experience of getting in at the start, of being part of a different type of movement. Somehow on Unbound it feels perfectly normal to cough up a tenner for an ebook you’re not going to get to read for a few months.

How do they do that? It’s all in the content.

Each book has multiple pages on the website – at a minimum a “Project Home” page with details of the project and a “Shed” where the author puts updates to keep all the supporters up to date with the project.

Often there are videos and blogs and diaries too. And this is all rich content – very focused on the core project, and very interesting (well, it should be – each project is a book after all!).

How can you use Content to increase the perceived value of your products? It might not be so you can increase prices – just to make sure you sell more at full price!


I think Unbound is a fascinating model – how will you take some of these lessons and put it into your business?