Book Digital Copies

It is now almost one year since I bought my Nook Color.  Some things have changed – I definitely access more books than I used to, and some of it (maybe 30-40%) is digital.  But I confess I’m still primarily a paper reader.  For me, it’s a matter of comfort, and I just can’t use the Nook Color as my primary reading source.

But my friend came over the other day and looked at my shelves and shelves of books.  And she said, “Wow. You have a lot of books.”  She’s not wrong – guesstimating, I’d say I have about 350-500 romance novels, depending on whether I have random stacks hidden away somewhere (which is probably a yes), and most of which I’ve accumulated in the last two years.  And I still gain about 4-5 romances a month.

Well, what if my house burns down?  Am I going to have to lose all those books?  It seems stupid not to take advantage of the digital age and just get eBooks.  I’m sure most of us agree that uniformity amongst the publishers has far to go, but the convenience, pricing, and durability of an eBook make total sense at this point.  And yet why shouldn’t I buy a paper copy if I want, especially since they’re still available, and it’s what works for me?

Then it hit me: Digital copies.  They don’t do it for CDs, because it’s legal to buy a CD then make a digital copy yourself.  But they do it for DVDs, because it’s illegal to rip a DVD, even if you own it.  So you pay a little more, get extra features or Blu-Ray, and get licensed to download a digital copy of your DVD.  And you’ll have it for all eternity.  (Frankly, the legality of ripping CDs versus DVDs doesn’t make much sense to me, but whatever.  They’re both on their way out.)

So what if publishers offered digital copies for books?  Let’s say I want Mary Balogh’s latest Signet reissue, retailing in paper for $7.99.  I don’t want to read her solely on my eBook reader, but I want the option of doing so in the future, if said house burns down or I go on a long trip, or whatever.  Would I be willing to pay a little more to have that freedom?  Provided the additional cost is no more than 25% of the paper value – i.e., $7.99 + $2.00 = $9.99 for paper and digital bundle – yup, I’d pay that.

From a publisher’s perspective, I could see it going two ways.  On the one hand, they’re cutting into their future eBook profit when people “re-buy” their book at a later date, which people are already doing, sometimes regardless of the state of the paper copy.  But on the other hand, would people be more likely to buy a book now if they know that they’ll have it forever?  I could see this logic working in favor of bricks and mortar bookstores, too, and anyway, once people come in and start buying book-eBook bundles, getting them to come back may be a lot easier.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this, in the poll below and in the comment section.  What do you think about the idea of book digital copies?  Is someone doing it already?  Who would it benefit most?  Do you think publishers and distributors would ever be on board with it?

- Jean AAR

How much would you pay for a digital copy?

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53 Responses to “Book Digital Copies”

  1. Jane G says:

    Seems doubtful to me that most readers would want to pay extra to get the e-book.

    Most will probably only read it once.

  2. farmwifetwo says:

    Also, books are replaceable. Maybe not that very one but there are always more to read by different authors.

    Yes, I do have a shelf of “keepers” but lately they don’t stay the same. For years I collected but now I cull those I haven’t read in a long time.

    For me “e” is about convienience. OOP hqn’s I may wish to read. The odd free book that I can download that interests me to try a new author. If there’s a good coupon I’ll try something from my goodreads tbr. I use it for waiting for my kid to finish up at Scouts, waiting at the Dr’s etc. It isn’t my primary reading source.

  3. “So what if publishers offered digital copies for books?”

    Mills & Boon UK do that. As you click to buy the paper copy from their website, a little box appears asking if you’d also like to buy the ebook version at a discount. For example, I clicked on the buy button for a paper book costing £5.99 and immediately I was asked “Would you like to try this as an eBook as well for only an extra £1.”

    • Jean Wan says:

      Laura Vivanco: “So what if publishers offered digital copies for books?”Mills & Boon UK do that. As you click to buy the paper copy from their website, a little box appears asking if you’d also like to buy the ebook version at a discount. For example, I clicked on the buy button for a paper book costing £5.99 and immediately I was asked “Would you like to try this as an eBook as well for only an extra £1.”

      That’s so interesting, Laura, because Harlequin (which owns M&B) doesn’t offer that option as far as I’m aware.

  4. Marianne McA says:

    That would only work for me for auto-buy authors: if I know I’m going to like & keep the book, I would pay extra to have it in both formats. For instance, Bujold’s Cyroburn – I bought the e-arc, then bought the actual book in hardback – I like her enough that I know I’ll reread both versions.
    (And because Baen is a fabulous publisher, the hardback came with a free CD of Bujold’s entire backlist – all of which I already had in both formats, but it’s the thought that counts.)

    However, for most books, one copy is enough. What a digital copy might do, I suppose, is tip me into paying for a hardback if the ebook came free with it – I’ve waited for months to read Susanna Kearsley’s The Rose Garden (out in the UK the day before yesterday, happiness is) because I wanted a paperback copy – I don’t need more hardbacks to shelve, and I didn’t want it as an ebook because I lend her books to my mum. If the hardback had come bundled with the ebook, I’d have bought it, given the hardback to my mum and kept the e-copy.

    O/T but so far, The Rose Garden is a great read.

  5. Patricia M. says:

    The difficulty I have with the notion is that there is no guarantee that digital copies are forever unless you receive a pdf that you can maintain yourself. If you buy digital books from Amazon, those books are only available for so long as Amazon exists. If Amazon were to go the way of Borders, all we buyers would be left with, potentially, is a claim in the bankruptcy estate and that would be worthless. That said, I do buy digital copies of books that are keepers for me but my life long attachments to books is weakening.

    • LeeB. says:

      Patricia M.: The difficulty I have with the notion is that there is no guarantee that digital copies are forever unless you receive a pdf that you can maintain yourself.

      Definitely agree with this. Also agree with wenmc’s comment about paper copies of books are sometimes cheaper. If it’s a choice between a paperback book and an ebook at the same price, I’m buying the paperback book.

      • Jean Wan says:

        LeeB.:
        Definitely agree with this.Also agree with wenmc’s comment about paper copies of books are sometimes cheaper.If it’s a choice between a paperback book and an ebook at the same price, I’m buying the paperback book.

        I guess there are ways around that though – you can convert most, if not all, eBooks to PDFs using Calibre – and then it /would/ be yours forever.

  6. wenmc says:

    The only reason I still purchase paper copies of books is because sometimes, it is the cheaper way to go. If I can get a book the same cost or less on my kindle, I will go digital. I have no need to store a bunch of paper copies. Now I will re-purchase books I love for my kindle. “Lord of the Scoundrels” was only 99 cents!

  7. Lynn M says:

    I’d love to have the option of having both a paper copy and a digital copy offered as a bundle for just a slightly higher price. It’s like Blu-Ray purchases for me now – in the past I’d only buy a DVD if I could get it cheap, like for around $5 used or in the Wal-Mart bin. Now, if there is a movie I really liked and want to own, I pay more to get the Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy version because I like having the Blu-Ray for home, DVD for travel and the kids, and a digital copy as a back-up.

    Granted, I’d prefer to only pay more for keepers. But the convenience of a digital copy is really nice. The other day, I was lugging around an especially thick trade paperback and decided to pay an extra $4.99 to download it on my Nook so I could read it on the go without having to carry the actual book. It would have been nice to have this option from the get-go.

  8. Jo-Ann W. says:

    I can’t vote because none of the options work for me. I rarely purchase a book at full price so paying that plus an ebook surchage is not an option. I have so many books (keepers and TBR) I don’t need to. I can usually wait to get or download any new book i need to have from the library, trade at PBS or with a friend, or wait to buy used at a deep discount. I am slowly building an ebook library taking advantage of free and hugely discounted offers. Most of the ones I’m collecting are ebooks of my keepers or ebook bargains of books that interest me. It works and I’m happy with my practices for now.

  9. Carrie says:

    I don’t think that sort of offer would appeal to me very often. I won’t buy ebook published by the publishers involved in agency pricing. I rarely buy print books full price, and I only buy them if I can’t get them from the library. I read both print and ebooks, but I generally prefer print. There are some books, like The Iron Duke, that I bought in both formats (my husband wanted to read it on Kindle, he didn’t care for the cover), but mostly I buy ebooks when they are available inexpensively and I can either try a new author or replace a print book. I read about 250 books a year, so this means I still buy more books than most people, I just buy them with coupons, at used books stores, or when they are offered inexpensively on Kindle.

    My keeper shelf for romance titles is only about 60-70 books (not counting Georgette Heyer books or authors like Austen), and that’s apt to change over time. I do have shelves of other keepers, including mysteries,. sci-fi, etc. But we cull those often, as well, since we have tight living quarters. E-books make sense with the tight space, but, as I said, I won’t buy the Agency books unless they drop the price pretty drastically, so I’m limited. The library is my friend.

    As an

    • Jean Wan says:

      Carrie: I don’t think that sort of offer would appeal to me very often. I won’t buy ebook published by the publishers involved in agency pricing. I rarely buy print books full price, and I only buy them if I can’t get them from the library. I read both print and ebooks, but I generally prefer print. There are some books, like The Iron Duke, that I bought in both formats (my husband wanted to read it on Kindle, he didn’t care for the cover), but mostly I buy ebooks when they are available inexpensively and I can either try a new author or replace a print book. I read about 250 books a year, so this means I still buy more books than most people, I just buy them with coupons, at used books stores, or when they are offered inexpensively on Kindle.
      My keeper shelf for romance titles is only about 60-70 books (not counting Georgette Heyer books or authors like Austen), and that’s apt to change over time. I do have shelves of other keepers, including mysteries,. sci-fi, etc. But we cull those often, as well, since we have tight living quarters. E-books make sense with the tight space, but, as I said, I won’t buy the Agency books unless they drop the price pretty drastically, so I’m limited. The library is my friend.As an

      I definitely agree – I rely heavily on the library, which is why my purchase quantity is so low. But I was thinking that the books I /do/ end up buying are keepers, or ones I’m banking on, and as such would like to have digitally as well.

  10. Jane A says:

    Yes, DRM-protected books potentially “disappearing” is a mark against (some) e-books, but I’ve noticed that I’ve hardly ever re-read a book, so the unlikely event of Amazon “going away” does not really bother me.

    And many authors and publishers sell e-books without DRM as well. I always go with that option if it’s available even if buying from Amazon is a litttle easier as you get the book directly delivered to the Kindle.

  11. Claudia says:

    I love your idea Jean:)
    I have thought about what you are suggesting for a while and I would definitely go for an option like that.
    Perhaps you don’t want all the books that you read in print (they do tend to accumulate) but having a digital copy of your favorite ones or your favorite authors it’s something I would love to have.
    In fact, as it is, if I really liked the electronic version of a book I tend to buy the hard copy, even if it is from a second hand source.

  12. Louise says:

    I think that, if you look at it from the perspective of the publishers, they would make out on the deal. I would, as people have said, only pay the extra for the bundle if it is an author or book that I am anxious for. Therefore, the publisher would be getting a little extra from the devoted fans, but still be making the regular money from regular consumption. True, they wouldn’t be making money from people buying double copies (as I do with many of my favorites), but I think that for most authors, those people are such a small percentage that it really wouldn’t be a big consideration.

    Also, to Patricia, even if Amazon goes out of business, I still have the mobi copies of those books. Why would I need to make a claim to them as long as I store those copies somewhere safe (say, separate from my kindle or in computer storage)? I am not saying you are wrong, you just have me worried now and I am thinking that I may need to plan ahead! :)

  13. Elaine C. says:

    What if my Nook burns up in that fire, along with the 10,000 print books we own??? Storage is always a problem, but I prefer print books. :-)

  14. Elaine C. says:

    Also, what’s going to replace CD’s and DVD’s? I’m already technology challenged. :-(

  15. Elaine C. says:

    In the last few minutes I read an article from the MSN homepage entitled “Why aren’t e-books cheaper than paper?” In it a publishing spokesperson said e-books were going to go up fron the 9.99 price on Amazon. That’s scary. It is an interesting article.

    • Jean Wan says:

      Elaine C.: In the last few minutes I read an article from the MSN homepage entitled “Why aren’t e-books cheaper than paper?” In it a publishing spokesperson said e-books were going to go up fronthe 9.99 price on Amazon. That’s scary. It is an interesting article.

      I’ve thought about this, and it occurs to me that an argument could be made that since eBooks theoretically last forever, as long as the digital world survives, then they are worth more.

      • Jean Wan:
        I’ve thought about this, and it occurs to me that an argument could be made that since eBooks theoretically last forever, as long as the digital world survives, then they are worth more.

        I’m not sure if the legal position’s been clarified yet as to what happens to access to ebooks after one’s dead, because I thought officially, if there’s DRM, you’re not buying the book, you’re just buying a licence to have access to it.

  16. willaful says:

    Your Nook may burn, but many of the ebooks on it will be replacable. And CDs and DVDs are currently being replaced by mp3s and streaming. :-)

    I would love this idea for series books. Many times when reading a later book I’ll want to refer to a previous one that I didn’t necessarily love enough to keep. Having ecopies of an entire series and keeping the paperbacks of just my favs would be awesome.

    I took advantage of the recent Harlequin coupon to get extremely cheap ecopies of some books that I didn’t want to give houseroom to, but found it hard to give up entirely. That was awesome.

  17. Jean, I suppose it could be because ebooks are less established as an alternative in the UK market, so perhaps they’re hoping to entice people into trying ebooks?

  18. MD says:

    I want it the opposite: I want an option to buy a paper copy if I liked the e-book. I don’t have enough space to store books, and it’s extra hassle to dispose of them. But I prefer my keepers in paper format so that I can page through them. I would love to have an option of buying an e-book with an option for paper if I like it (say, a discount coupon if I buy the paper version within a specified timeframe).

    • Jean Wan says:

      MD: I want it the opposite: I want an option to buy a paper copy if I liked the e-book. I don’t have enough space to store books, and it’sextra hassle to dispose of them. But I prefer my keepers in paper format so that I can page through them.I would love to have an option of buying an e-book with an option forpaper if I like it (say, a discount coupon if I buy the paper version within a specified timeframe).

      MD, that’s an excellent option! Never thought of that, but if eBook is the default, for whatever reason, then that certainly makes sense.

    • willaful says:

      MD: I want it the opposite: I want an option to buy a paper copy if I liked the e-book. I don’t have enough space to store books, and it’sextra hassle to dispose of them. But I prefer my keepers in paper format so that I can page through them.I would love to have an option of buying an e-book with an option forpaper if I like it (say, a discount coupon if I buy the paper version within a specified timeframe).

      You are so right! This would definitely work better for me.

  19. PatH AAR says:

    I’m addicted to my Kindle and perfer getting my books that way. As a reviewer who gets many paper copies of galleys, I’m liking the e-galley places too. I have way too many paper copies of books and the insects they attract.

    I back up my Kindle books on my computer and have them on a zip drive too, not to mention that Amazon has all my purchased e-books ready for me to download them again. I’m more backed up with my e-books than I am with anything else on my computer! Even my family photos aren’t backed up so well!

  20. JulieR says:

    When I bought Lois McMaster Bujold’s last book, Cryoburn, in hardcover, it came with a CD containing digital versions of all of her Vorkosigan stories. Every. Single. One. In multiple digital formats.

    Though I already had them all in paper, this was an unexpected treat. Now if I’m away from home and something reminds me of Miles or Ivan, I can just pull out my iPod Touch and start reading.

    This was apparently the idea of the publisher, Baen. Not sure how practical it would be for less established authors or a much more profilic author, like Nora Roberts, but I’d like to see more publishers try this out.

  21. escschwartz says:

    As a college prof I know that textbook publishers do this all the time, giving students ebook access to a text when they buy the hard-copy from the bookstore. Some offer the ebook only at a reduced price and sometimes the ebook access is time limited, but the model is out there for digital along with paper purchase.
    I have been mostly buying Kindle editions (to save space and for travel convenience) but there are books I’d be willing to pay a bit more to have the paper copy too purchased as a package deal. I don’t buy both because it normally means paying double for the same content which is absurd.

  22. Jean Wan says:

    @Julie R – I think Baen is rather exceptional in that regard. I believe when they digitized their backlist, they made a significant portion of that free.

    @escschwartz – I hadn’t thought of the textbook angle, but it makes total sense considering how heavy textbooks are. I would be interested to see what Apple comes up with – I heard that their latest iteration of iBooks features a significant partnership with major textbook publishers. Just not sure how that will manifest for consumers and students.

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