This, what seems like a very good idea, was on the BBC website yesterday.
Author Bill Bryson (I don’t think I’ve ever read any of his, unfortunately), is making a very interesting suggestion in the link above. If you can’t be bothered clicking up there, here’s the gist: His suggestion is that sales of ‘hard’ copies of books – hardbacks, paperbacks – could be in some way protected, even encouraged if an eBook version were in some way ‘bundled’ in with the purchase. He makes a point, one that I hadn’t even come within binocular-distance of, of feeling forced to choose, between a hard-copy and an e-version, when one is in the market for a new book. He seems to be saying that as he travels a lot and reads books (for the convenience of not having to pack an extra suitcase for books to take on the journey, I guess), he reads books on his e-reader. But, if I get his point, he prefers having the ‘hard copy’. But he can’t/doesn’t want to, buy the thing twice. So has to choose, before buying, based on ‘where am I most likely to read this one?’
The BBC article is crediting Bill Bryson with ‘urging’ the idea, but it seems as though Amazon got there first. As I read the piece, they (Amazon) are about to, or already do in the US, offer digital downloads. For their Kindle, presumably. For free, or for a reduced consideration (over buying it for your Kindle direct).
I read physical books at home, eBooks (or whatever else it is they’re called this week) on the bus, or when I’m bored at work (if you’re one of my bosses – you didn’t just see that. Still, as they’re all Danish, they probably wouldn’t understand it anyway, so I’ll be alright). Anyway, on Amazon (I think) you can download an MP3 of an album, if you have ordered the physical one. It may just be the vinyl copy (I have friends who still buy vinyl) but now it seems like Amazon may well be going to try giving away, or offering a discounted digital version, with hardback or paperback books you buy from them.
With DVDs I know often you get a link to be able to download a digital copy of the film you’ve bought. Saves having to jump through the hoops of trying to download and use a programme to copy it and remove the DRM (if you’re a film company, you didn’t just see that. I wouldn’t think of doing that with a film I have bought, paid for and consider I now own).
Still, getting a link – somehow – to be able to download a digital copy of the book you’ve just bought in hardback or paperback, sounds a very interesting idea. As I said, I hadn’t thought of it in the way Bill Bryson puts it, as being forced to choose between the digital and hard copy of a book, but I can certainly see where he’s coming from. Obviously, (companies like) Amazon could include a link to the digital copy in with the book’s packaging. From a bookshop, not sure. Maybe at the check-out, they’d give you a link, but it should only be able to be redeemed by someone who has actually bought the book, not just picked it up in the shop and looked inside to get the link. Though, someone on the till at a supermarket isn’t going to be in a position to spend a whole lot of time looking for a link to the book you just bought in with your bread and milk. Maybe, you make this deal something only specialist bookshops can offer? Though, if you’re in a specialist bookshop, you may not be interested in the digital version, which is why you’re in a specialist bookshop after all. Though some, Waterstones, do sell digital book readers as well as hard copies. Oh well, erm…solve that little conundrum, and you’ll be very popular. Maybe not with The Bookseller, but with me. And Bill Bryson, by the looks.