Today is my 2nd blogiversary. On this day, 2 years ago, I published my first blog post, little knowing how many lives I was going to ruin. (Chiefly mine, because constantly thinking of things to give out about gives me very little time to do anything but eat unhealthy food, and make obscene gestures at Dublin Bus drivers who drive past me at bus stops.)
But I thought, seeing as it’s My Day, that I would think of something I would like to have, as a kind of present, if you will. But the thing I ended up thinking of is something I can’t have, and I’m very angry about it. It’s ruining my blogiversary.
Go On, Then: What Are You Complaining About Now?
I have a special place in my black heart reserved for maddening things. It is populated mainly by tangled earphone cords, pushy book marketing, that chafing on your thighs which comes from an ill-fitting pair of tights, and traditional publishers who don’t offer what I’m going to call multi-format book bundling (i.e. all of them).
Publishers just don’t get it. It’s like they roam helplessly about their offices, muttering “Kids today. They want so much stuff. But it’ll ruin us! Special offers will bring us doooowwwwn!”
Multi-format book bundling isn’t about giveaways. It’s about sense. I’m talking about giving book buyers the choice to buy both a paper and a digital version of a book together, for a tiny bit extra. It’s not a big ask. We’ve already bought the book: we’d just like to have a choice regarding the way we read it.
How Do You Read?
Look at this scenario. I currently employ a multi-formatted approach to reading. My preferred format is the paperback. My second favourite is a mini Android tablet with a Kindle app, which has pretty colours and allows me to hop onto the internet whenever I feel a burning desire to look something up. I also have a Kindle Paperwhite, for reading outside. And finally, I use the Kindle app on my phone, for days out and about, when I’m only going to be able to read for 10 minutes at a time and I don’t want to cart a heavy book around.
50% Extra Free (ish)
There’s a whole untapped market out there for people who have bought stuff, and for a little bit more money, they would like some more stuff. They are willing to pay money for this more stuff. And the book world just isn’t making us the right offer.
The music and film industries cottoned on to the ‘Special Edition’ notion a long, long time ago. For a couple of extra quid you can get extra tracks; interviews; DVD extras; a fancy gold case, or a signed picture of Elton John’s dog. And people buy into this. Superfans, mediocrefans, and grannies looking for a present for a taciturn teenager. It’s an easy sell: you’re going to buy this thing anyway. Why not pay a tiny bit extra and get lots, lots more?
But not books. They don’t want to give you more in the book world.
Given the choice, I’d read paperbacks all the time. I don’t like the fact that eReaders make it hard to flick back to previous pages easily. I also don’t like the fact that it takes unreasonable effort to have a quick look at the book jacket or blurb when in the middle of the book.
But nothing can beat the fact that I can be reading a book on my tablet, then find myself at a loose end on the bus on my way into work and pick up where I left off on my phone: so ebooks are winning the day on average, even if I’d much rather curl up with the paperback. Because the Kindle app allows me to be both a bookworm, and a functioning taxpayer.
At present, book publishers are treating each and every format of a book as a separate purchase. But if I’ve already bought a copy of the book, I don’t see why I can’t get a special edition which comes with a one-off code for a digital version too (and maybe even something tantalising, like a bonus chapter; a few illustrations; an author interview, or a retelling of something from another POV) for just a fraction more. A euro. A dollar. £1.79p. Whatever. Depending on what the DVD extras are.
But it seems as though traditional publishers believe that if they give me 2 differently formatted copies of a book, they’re losing 50% of their potential sales, or something.
Is Logic Too Much To Ask For?
I’m no more likely to hand over my 2nd (alternative format) copy of a book than I am to lend that book to a friend: that is, it’s the same probability. They’ll lose no more sales than they would in the normal course of events, where books are sometimes borrowed and lent between readers, and there isn’t a damn thing they can do about it, unless they’re going to sue the entire world.
So I don’t see any reason why I can’t get any book I buy in more than one format if I choose. The only reason I can’t, is because publishers won’t provide it. And it’s really, really, really annoying. Hence their position in the darkest corner of my book-loving heart. I want something. They won’t let me have it. It’s my party. And I’ll cry if I want to.
Anyone else out there think this is a missed opportunity?