From my understanding, the loss leader is something that is either sold at an extremely reduced price or just given away in an effort to stimulate the sale of other goods or services.
The new Shortcovers web site and iPhone app seems to almost depend on the loss leader, as they give away early chapters of many books in hope of the sale of additional chapters or the whole book.
The problem with the Shortcovers methodology, however, is that the loss leader leads nowhere, so it’s in fact just a loss.
Here’s a screenshot of the last page of the first chapter of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury in the Shortcovers iPhone app
Notice how, at the end, it says, “Continues…” Well, of course it continues. It’s the first chapter of the book! Unfortunately, in this environment, there’s no indication of how it continues. There’s no, “Click here to buy chapter 2…” or “Learn how to buy this book.”
Remarkably, for a site that seems to have staked its sales model on that loss leader doing its job, that free stuff just leads to a proverbial dead end.
Poorly thought-out reading experiences such as these are the reason why the ebook has had such slow uptake. Technical impediments to the consumption of the media itself just slow adoption and drive people away.
If this were a book, instead of an ebook, I could have just turned the page and kept on reading…