I own a lot of books. Our family library (an enclosed bay of our garage) is lined floor to ceiling with shelves sagging under the weight of a few thousand cloth-bound volumes. I’m also an avid fan of electronic readers. At one time or another, I have owned just about every eReader ever produced. Last night, I purchased a new Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch. We’ve come a long way from Sony’s original DD-1 Electronic Book Player with its ascii texts on mini-cd, but not as far as I’d like. As I was loading eBooks onto my new device I had to explain (read: justify…again) to my wife why I often buy both the electronic and physical versions of any given title. The short answer is, “I need both.”
I prefer the reading experience on an eReader. When lying in bed, a 1,000 page novel can be a bit cumbersome and carrying a dozen books through airport security is not fun. My nook weighs about as much as a hearty sandwich, holds hundreds of titles and fits in my pocket. This is great for casual reading and traveling, but eReaders still fall flat when it comes to research and reference. When I need to find to a specific passage or some annotation I made while reading (I am a compulsive margin scribbler), I’ll take hardcopy every time. It just isn’t possible to “flip through” an eBook. So I buy the electronic copy to read and the physical copy to reference. (yeah, my wife doesn’t buy the argument either).
So why doesn’t the publishing industry offer me a package deal? Sell me the physical book and throw in an access code that lets me download the electronic version. I would be much happier paying the full retail price of the book, maybe even a bit of a premium, if I didn’t have to make a separate purchase to take it with me on a plane. This is already the model with many Blu-ray DVDs; buy the physical disk and get a code to download the movie to your iPad. Not only would this make me (and my wife) much happier and less concerned about discount prices, it could also bolster Brick and Mortar bookstores. I’d be much more likely to make the trip to a physical store to peruse titles, if I knew that any book I buy will also be available on my Nook or iPad (I’ve given up on the Kindle ever being open). Don’t make me choose between books and bits.
While there I’d probably buy a biscotti and cappuccino as well. hmm…lots of cross-selling potential…