Friday, February 17, 2012


Book publishers have a problem – one among many. In a marketing tactic called "bundling", two or more products are packaged and sold at a single price. The problem is, how should publishers price a package that contains a print book and the e-book version of it? Should the price be some combination of the price of the print edition plus the digital edition, or should the e-book be free?

However, it seems to me that the first question should be, why would anyone want to buy a print edition plus a digital edition of the same book?

With most books, once you've read it, that's it. You might keep it in case you, or someone else, might want to read it, or read it again. But you hardly ever do read it again. So it sits there, gathering dust. And one day you give it away or throw it out.

So why have an e-book version as well?

And why might anyone consider it worthwhile paying extra for it?

In the past year I have probably read thirty books and haven't bought any of them. Some have been for work, some were borrowed, and some were old friends that live here permanently.

Once the work aspect is taken care of, I have decisions to make. First, is there anyone else I know who would enjoy this book? If so, shall I give it away or lend it? If not, I throw it away. This high-handed attitude is recent, and arose because I no longer wish to live in unreasonable clutter. Useful clutter is fine – that's homey. But I have learned to be tough about having stuff around that is not earning the space it occupies. A print book has to be something special to warrant consideration. And perhaps only one or two of the non-resident print books I've read in the past year have made it past the barrier, given the choice. (Sometimes the "work" books must be returned.)

An e-book reader can contain hundreds of books. A book can be bought, usually more cheaply than the print edition, so the decision to buy is easier. The book can be read, very conveniently, and kept for re-reading or erased. If erased, it can still be retrieved from the personal cloud that e-book owners maintain somewhere out there in the ether.

So why would anyone buy a print edition of that book as well?

Bundling two versions of the same product doesn't make a lot of sense to me, at whatever price.


  1. I don't have an e reader but there are two under my roof. One of the (new) kindle owners is exercising his right to have The Times delivered free to his e reader each day for I-can't-remember-how-many days. This allows him to read to us, over the evening meal, the Royal Family's diary for the day. We sit, sausages in air half-way to our mouths, awestruck. And of course kindle will read The Times to us instead of our having to read it ourselves. The effect of the Royal diary, read in a warm American drawl, defies description.

  2. What scares me is the idea that music will soon be an added option - at least I hope it is only an option. Too much music drowns out too much dialogue already e.g. on the telly for my taste.