Before I start, I want to offer a hearty welcome ot Terri Bischoff. Ben will absolutely be missed on these here pages, but we all will learn a lot from Terri, who is one of the smartest and best people I know.
I love print books. And I love ebooks. I especially love having a print and electronic copy of the book I’m reading because this makes it easy for me to grab whichever format is suited to the circumstances…if I’m on the back porch during the day? I prefer print. But at night, I prefer electronic because the light on the reader is easier on my eyes. It’s just like maps; electronic maps are swell, but sometimes I want to get a bigger picture and/or more route options with a paper map.
For years now I’ve watched independent bookstores struggle with ebooks. I’ve mourned the loss of stores around the country just as I’ve hoped that there could be some kind of way that I could buy both the print and electronic editions at the same time. When Amazon introduced MatchBook, they confirmed that the market for this scenario extends far beyond just me.
I make no apologies for loving reading on the Kindle, nor for buying ebooks from it from Amazon. It is the best purpose-built device for my needs. While I do buy some print books from Amazon (those that aren’t released in the US, for example), I prefer to buy them from a bookstore.
Today, HarperCollins and BookShout announced a program whereby bookstores are selling bundles including the print book and ebook. Right now, this includes only certain titles and has 11 participating stores. But it’s a step in the right direction. Is it perfect? Nope. BookShout has its own app, and books can only be read within the app. So not on Kindles. But for folks who read on tablets or phones, it’s perfect.
To me, the question of bookstores selling ebooks is pretty simple: If you choose not to offer your customers ebooks, they’re going to buy them elsewhere.
Many bookstores reacted negatively to Amazon’s Source program, whereby bookstores can sell Kindle devices and then receive 10% of purchases through those selfsame devices. I understand why they did, but the reality is there are customers—like me—who are going to keep buying print and Kindle books. The assumption is that people read electronically will buy fewer print books. I think that’s probably true, but I also think the “fewer” percentage is negligible. If I knew of a store where I could have bought my last Kindle, I would have purchased it there. And that store would have made a packet from my purchases since. But I don’t (if there is one in St. Petersburg, Florida you’re aware of, please speak up!) so it didn’t.
I don’t believe there’s a right or wrong format for books. I think the more formats, the merrier because ultimately, more people reading can’t be bad. I hope that more bookstores start looking at ebooks as less of a threat and more of an opportunity.
Because they’re not going anywhere.