Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Reading Books in All the Formats

Do I want the hardback version of this book or the electronic version of this book? That’s the question I asked myself the other day as I was considering the purchase of a book that hadn’t been released yet. I think what surprised me the most was how tempting it was for me to purchase both versions. The electronic version has its advantages in that it will be delivered on the day of release and not two days later. It is also a couple of dollars cheaper, but that was hardly a concern, considering that I thought about buying both. The hardback version also has its advantages. With the hardback version, someone can walk into the house, see it lying on a table and ask if it is any good. Another advantage over the electronic version is that it will last a lot longer. Think about all of the software companies that have gone out of business or sold off a product that isn’t supported by the company that bought it. The eBook industry looks great right now, but one of these days there will be a bunch of eBooks that aren’t available to because they are no longer supported by the companies that are selling them.

I know that Thomas Nelson has been flirting with “bundling” so that readers who buy a book in one format don’t have to pay for it in the other formats. We can hope that other publishers do the same, but even if they don’t, I think we will see readers obtaining copies of books in multiple formats. That won’t be the case with every book, but if people really want to keep a book they may purchase it in hardback just to have a permanent copy, even if they choose to read the book in the electronic format. Some readers will prefer the paper version of books, but they may purchase the electronic version so they can begin reading the book and then finish reading the book after the physical book arrives in the mail.

It all seems a waste, which is why I hope more publishers will follow Thomas Nelson’s lead of offering the electronic and audio versions of books to people who purchase the physical copy. I don’t know that we should expect them to offer them for free, since there are additional costs associated with each of these formats, but when we consider that there if much shared effort between the formats, it makes sense that readers won’t have pay as if they are completely separate books.