eBooks: Have Your Cake And Eat It Too

Monday, January 30th, 2006
I've blogged quite a bit about my paperless challenge and my desire for innovation on the part of publishers - specifically, providing customers with books in formats that they want, will use, and are willing to pay for. At the same time, Michael Hyatt, President and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers has made several thought-provoking posts on the death of traditional book publishing and how publishers must adapt to the digital age.

Thanks to Calrion, a reader of my blog, I've just learned about an unconventional publisher that offers its books in print, PDF, and print+PDF.
But wait, there's more!

Eric, you may be interested in what a publisher, Pragmatic Programmer, is doing with eBooks. You can purchase the (physical) book either on-line or from your local book store, or you can purchase the book+PDF combo from their website. Additionally--and this really is the kicker--your purchase (anywhere) of the physical book entitles you to 60%-off the price of the PDF version. So, you can buy the book and then visit their website to get the PDF. Ideally I'd like the PDF to be complimentary (as I consider the price of the book should more-than-cover the small cost involved), but this is a great step forward.

I was skeptical, so I visited the Pragmatic Programmer web site and found that in addition to the above, they offer free updates to the PDF. How's that for listening to customers!

Customers may choose to purchase books in three ways:

1. Books in print, for this who want the physical book
2. eBooks in unrestricted PDF format with free lifetime updates
3. Combo Book + PDF* for people like me who want to enjoy the book in both formats

I realize that this is a specialty publisher with a small offering of books at this time, but the business model is highly innovative in that it offers customers a choice.

I wonder if we will see anything like this soon from mainstream publishers?

What do you think?

* If you've not been following my Tablet PC adventures, it means I can read it on paper, read it on my Tablet PC, and mark it up in digital ink.

Discussion/Comments (5):

eBooks: Have Your Cake And Eat It Too

Also O'Reilly decided to copy Pragmatic Programmer and have started a "Rough Cuts" [1] program via Safari. Quite seperately from standard Safari, these new books are avaliable as single purchase online, or print+online. Something I wish they'd do for all their other books.

[1] { Link }

Posted at 01/30/2006 9:38:16 by Nicholas Lee

I wonder who’ll be the first mainstream publisher to follow suit?

Pragmatic Programmer and O'Rilley are publishers that appeal to the more technically-oriented market segment. I wonder if the larger traditional publishers see the same opportunities in the broader, non-tecchnical market segments?

Posted at 01/30/2006 10:41:04 by Eric Mack

eBooks: Have Your Cake And Eat It Too

Do you suppose Michael Hyatt is following this? I'd be interested in hearing from him what business/economic factors are involved in shifting to this kind of model. I posted that as a question on his blog recently.

Posted at 01/31/2006 2:27:21 by Jeff Singfiel

eBooks: Have Your Cake And Eat It Too

Eric, for a short time I worked for a large text book publishing company in their technology department. It may interest you to know that the book publishing workflow is: the Manuscript is imported to a page layout program like Quark, which is printed to a PDF file to review the content and layout, then sent to the book printer. PDF file publishing is integrated into the process, therefore there is little additional cost to manufacture a text book with an ebook. IMHO I think they struggle with a business model as well as DRM issues. I agree with Michael Hyatt about the death of the physical book, but not sure that the physical device is the primary issue. I think it's what we do with books that will drive the market. I would like a tool that will allow me to read, annotate, my book and make notes on a separate page if I want. I think the Go Binder/OneNote type of products allow us to use e-books the same way we use physical books, and will be products to watch. Now if we can all get the DRM issues settled...

Posted at 02/05/2006 10:25:14 by Gary

eBooks: Have Your Cake And Eat It Too

If you like science fiction, Baen books ( { Link } ) publishes electronic versions of all their books electronically

as well as print; HTML, MS Reader, several other

formats available. (I say 'all', that's not

*quite* accurate as many older catalog titles

haven't been converted; but many have.) What's

more, they also offer a number of their books

for *free* electronically -- suck you in with

older first volumes, which makes you buy the

current ones. :-) Even more, electronic

versions are partially available before

hardcopy release date; they've even started

offering complete 'advance reader copies'

for additional cost if you just can't wait for

the latest volume of a series. And, final

win: no DRM! Only publisher I know that really

'gets it'...

--John N.

Posted at 03/08/2006 8:27:02 by John N.

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