Epicurious, the popular cooking site, is selling digital cookbooks through its app, but with a key technological twist. The Random House titles, so far the only publisher that the Conde Nast site is partnering with before new titles become available soon, are available for purchase through the Epicurious app but also will be available to view as stand-alone recipes.
Seventy-five titles from such celebrity chefs as Food Network stars Bobby Flay and Martha Stewart are available through the program, allowing gourmands to incorporate their digital cookbooks into their virtual recipe boxes for real-time, in-kitchen recipe browsing from handheld devices.
However, there’s a catch to all the browsing and cooking: the digital editions of the Random House cookbooks bought through the Epicurious app are not available in any other format to the reader. Despite the fact that Random House sells these same culinary titles as ebooks on other distribution platforms, consumers who opt to buy the cookbooks through the site are only able to view their purchased titles through the app or website, something that directly contradicts the great portability and access-anywhere features of digital reading.
Moreover, while the app is free to use online, viewing recipes through the app on mobile devices—which is currently only available for iOS but with an Android release set for later this week—costs $1.99, as well as the $10.99 to $24.99 purchase price of the ebooks. That’s a fairly steep price to pay for a digital edition of any book.
As publishers such as John Wiley & Sons have seen with the recent second quarter sales numbers that reflect a drop in ebook sales of cookbooks, fewer readers may be taking their pricey digital devices to the messy kitchen countertop. With options like the Cook from the Book feature of Epicurious’ and Random House’s partnership that make accessing recipes marginally easier, a return to digital may be in the works.