When you look at the movie industry you always get the digital version for free when you buy the hard copy. When you buy a Blu-ray Disk it normally comes with a free digital edition for your computer, ditto with DVD Disks. Considering that eBooks are so popular, why is it that the leather bound tomes we have come to love are not accompanied by the digital version?
I think this idea would make a tremendous amount of sense. If you look at most tangible media goods, they always come with a digital copy. This digital copy allows you to watch the movie on your laptop when you travel or are within your network. There are many factors that make the digital copy of a DVD or Blu-ray disk worth it.
Amazon recently claimed at the beginning of the year that ebooks were destroying regular books at a ratio of 3:1. Even the New York Times now has a dedicated eBook section.
Many people often write to me and lament that they have a favorite book and in order to enjoy it on their e-reader they have to pay for the book again. While others say that when they purchase the real book and then pirate the ebook, they don’t feel bad.
I admit that the eBook industry is exploding and many factors of the evolving landscape bear striking similarities to the music industry growth in the last 15 years. Companies in the digital book age have the case studies done on how unprepared the music industry was for the digital revolution.
The ebook industry had a similar phenomenon to the music industry; many different formats of ebooks were developed, before one spontaneously became the default. Music came in 10 or 15 major formats at one point before everyone gravitated towards MP3’s as the industry standard. Perhaps the slow establishment of the ebook industry standard is hampering the book industry from giving the digital version away for free.
Speaking of eBook formats, four years ago many more were developed before the ePub version was settled on. We had formats such as LIT, LRF, OPF, AEH, FB2, DJVU, and tons more. When the ePub format became the leading format a few years ago you saw more companies dealing exclusively in it. This is why companies such as Borders, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and others sell the same ePub format, so it compatible with the maximum number of devices. The odd man out? Amazon, he is just a very BIG man.
Currently we are in a battle of formats, much akin to major battles of formats before the niche took off. You look at previous wars such as; Beta VS. VHS, MP3 vs Flac, Bluray VS. HD DVD. It was not until the battles were decided did the industries really grow and more companies supported the format.
In order for the free ebook digital copy to be included in the paperback or hardcover version, a single, universal format needs to be agreed upon and compatible with ANY e-reader.
As we mentioned, Amazon is the odd man out with its MOBI/AZW format that it uses to encrypt books to prevent piracy. The company seems to be coming around and might be getting into the business very soon at dealing with the ePub format. We broke the news a week ago that Amazon was telling many major publishing partners that they were switching to the ePub format very soon. They were doing this because they need to be more publisher and consumer friendly. Once Amazon does this, it will establish ePub as the defacto industry format for electronic books. Once this happens, we will hopefully see the electronic version of the book given away with the tangible version.
Lastly, I can see some positive benefits to including the digital version of the book along with the hard copy. For one, much akin to pre-orders for video games you can provide a key that would be redeemed either for the authors digital version but maybe a backlist title as well. In any case, giving the digital copy away for free would insure that survival of tangible books in the digital age. It would be better for the major chains to allow customers to come INTO the store and buy the hard copy and while their there to make impulse purchases.
What do you think?
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.