Bundling Information Goods: Pricing, Profits and Efficiency
38 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 1997
Date Written: April 1998
We analyze pricing strategies for digital information goods, such as those increasingly available via the Internet. Because perfect copies of such goods can be created and distributed almost costlessly, any single positive price for copies is likely to be socially inefficient. However, we show that, under certain conditions, a monopolist selling information goods in large bundles instead of individually may nearly eliminate this inefficiency. In addition, the bundling strategy can extract as profits an arbitrarily large fraction of the area under the demand curve for the individual goods while commensurately reducing consumers' surplus. The bundling strategy is particularly attractive when the marginal costs of the goods are very low, when the correlation in the demand for different goods is low, and when consumer valuations for the individual goods are of comparable magnitude. We also describe the optimal pricing strategies when these conditions do not hold; show how private incentives for bundling can diverge from social incentives; and describe a mechanism to recover information about the underlying demand for each individual good. The predictions of our analysis appear to be consistent with empirical observations of the markets for Internet and on- line content, cable television programming, and copyrighted music.
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