Sunday, October 31, 2010
e-books should be free
Last Christmas I got a blu-ray movie for Christmas, and it came with a free digital copy. Very easy to do - inside the sealed package was a redemption code to download the movie from iTunes. Absolutely brilliant (and perfectly targeted, as the film was Star Trek, the geek movie event of 2009).
The logic of this (Spock would be proud) is quite progressive if you think about it. When you buy a movie, what you're paying for is the intellectual property, not the piece of plastic (which costs pennies when produced at this scale). So why not sling in an alternative version of the same intellectual property. It costs them nothing, it instills a huge level of audience satisfaction, and there's a strong chance it helps to prevent piracy (as the geek doesn't have to rip the movie to put it on his devices, and the copy he's downloading from iTunes is DRM protected).
So I'm really surprised I haven't seen this business model anywhere else since. Admittedly, I've not bought too many blu-ray movies in the last year, but the one place I'd expect to start seeing it is in the book publishing industry. Why aren't publishers packaging free/cheap e-books when you buy their hard copies?
Earlier this year I bought Tony Blair's autobiography, on release weekend, for half price at WHSmith. It's a mighty heavy tome! I do most of my reading (limited as that still is) on the tube, and there were days when the book was simply too heavy and bulky to fit in my bag. But I do have an iPad... so I found a hooky PDF copy of the book via bit torrent, complete with appallingly ripped punctuation symbols, and have started to read that instead. Morally, I don't feel bad since I have paid money for that intellectual property (and contributed to The Royal British Legion in the process), but of course I have technically committed an illegal act.
So come on Amazon, drag your Kindle-loving business model into the 21st century. For every hard copy purchased, throw in a free or cheap copy of the e-book. I bet you'll sell more hard copies, and you'll probably persuade people to buy more Kindles in the process.