/ Technology

Why can’t real books come with a digital copy?

Books on shelf with e-reader

The Kindle and other e-readers are fantastic products, but you can’t wrap a digital book and put it under your tree. Surely there’s a solution so that we can keep on giving (and unwrapping) books at Christmas?

Last Christmas Ben Stevens bemoaned the fact that the digitisation of music, books, films and even magazines was robbing us of the traditional staples of the Christmas giving period.

We can give digital gifts anyway, but it’s a shame to lose the ritual of gift opening – even if it’s obvious what it is!

It was with this in mind that I informed my friends and family not to buy me books this Christmas – not because I wouldn’t like them, but because I’d prefer to read them on my Kindle. I confess to a pang of guilt as I said this, as I’d just made everyone’s Christmas shopping that little bit harder.

I was then reminded that the film industry has tackled and solved this very issue. The majority of major Blu-ray releases now come packaged in ‘triple packs’ where you get the Blu-ray, a DVD copy and a digital copy that can be copied to your PC for use on mobile devices or PCs. Why can’t the same be done for books?

The pros and cons of free digital books

There are probably a dozen ways this could be done – ideally books in shops would come with a token or code that could be used to redeem a digital copy. This would be the most convenient solution, but there is a fairly obvious flaw – what’s to stop people redeeming the digital copy and selling the paper copy on?

This doesn’t happen with films because the digital and ‘high-def’ versions are fundamentally different in terms of quality, but most of the time this can’t be said of books.

A more straightforward solution might be a simple trade-in scheme. Upon returning a book to a store, it could then be traded for a code to get the digital copy. That way publishers and retailers wouldn’t lose out on a sale, and customers will get the book they want in the format they want.

Maybe all this is just impractical, or there’s a better solution to the problem – perhaps we’ll just resign ourselves to gifting vouchers in place of the real thing? But for me I’d prefer not to lose the delight of opening a present and discovering a book that I’d never have thought of buying myself, but which turned out to be brilliant.

Either that or I should stop being so fussy. You decide.

Charlie says:
22 December 2011

Isn’t part of the problem that books don’t attract VAT whereas ebooks do? To include an e-code would therefore require the hard copy book sale attracting VAT.

J Hanly says:
22 December 2011

I’ve given vouchers which can be used on line to buy e books from one of the major booksellers. I guess we’ll get to the point soon where we’ll be able to buy an e book for someone and send them the log in reference to down load it.

My Sony e reader arrived last Christmas and has been used all year – the item I never knew I needed but can’t live without. Most of my books are down loaded in seconds, for free from the Surrey on line library for a 7 – 14 days period. The e reader was a boom on holiday this year, it worked on the beach, airports and out and about with travel guides. I wouldn’t go back to traditional books. Plus my e reader converted lots of other family members.

It might be me but I feel that I am a luddite and I like to “feel” the books in my hands. Also, with everything music, films, books etc going digital my house would become quite empty if I was to follow current trends – no more crowded shelves and bookcases just a nagging concern that I might not have backed up the little black box in the centre of the room.

I started to weaken a short while ago and was going to let my wife buy me a reader until I looked at the price of downloading the new “Tom Clancy novel ( I am currently reading through all his books) and found it was cheaper to buy in book form as was the Stieg Larsson trilogy (The Girl with the dragon Tattoo.etc). Also if we were to all go Digital what would all the charity shops do ??.

Knowlesie says:
23 December 2011

Aah Trevor, who dusts all your books and other collections?

I am a bit like Trevor – I like to feel the book in my hands, I like to collect books. It’s not necessarily a ‘luddite’ thing – I enjoy being able to lend books (I know it’s becoming easier to do digitally, but still not quite the same), I also like having lots of books visible – I might pick up and flick through a book of poetry that catches my eye as I walk past the bookshelf, whereas on a Kindle I’d have to remember and search for it.

But the issue of giving books as presents can still be fun on the Kindle. I have a friend who had just got a Kindle last year, and also got into a particular area of science that I was really into. Rather than buy the books, I went online and found a selection of four that I thought he’d really like, and were a great intro to that area, then I printed out a nice voucher with all the titles and descriptions on, and gave him a voucher for the exact amount of the four books. So it’s not quite ‘here’s some cash, get what you like’ it’s ‘here’s some cash, and here’s all the thought I’ve put into choosing something you’ll love.’ He liked it, although I’ve never quizzed him on whether he bought those exact books =)

A good point. A similar thing is often done with vinyl these days; buy a lovely piece of vinyl and you get a digital download code to nab your free mp3’s too. Win/win.

Books do have digital copies – you just pay extra for them – Why must everything be free????