Recently I bought a record. It’s the new album of a band I am a big fan of. I don’t own a record player but I bought it anyway since a) the album art is amazing and b) it comes with a code to download a digital copy that’s DRM-free so I can listen to it on any device I choose. It gives me a choice between two formats and allows me to download it up to three times (I guess that’s in case my computer dies and I don’t have a backup, which is nice of them to do.)
For the past few years Blu-Ray movies have been sold with bundled digital copies. Depending on which studio puts out the movie this can either be downloaded via iTunes or a new-ish system called UltraViolet.
In June Cineplex announced the creation of the “SuperTicket.” This is a system which will allow movie-goers to pre-purchase a digital copy of the movie they are about to see, so that once it is released on DVD they will have a copy in their UltraViolet account. The SuperTicket is more expensive than a normal movie ticket, but you get the added bonus of a digital copy.
Certain comics from Marvel come with a download code printed on the last page so that you can get a digital copy through Comixology. As far as I know these comics will generally cost about one dollar more than a comic the same length that doesn’t have the download code with it.
Today I was on the subway at rush hour trying to read the brand new Terry Pratchett book, The Long War, written with Stephen Baxter, in hard cover. That was not working well at all. In my pocket was a phone with several different programs on it that can display ebooks. In my bag was a kindle.
Why can I buy an album, a movie ticket, or a comic book and get a digital copy built into the cost but I can’t do the same for a book? I dislike that every time I purchase a book I need to choose between the convenience of digital and the tactile sensation of having a printed book. I have to choose between supporting a local business and buying from Amazon. I would really like to see a similar system to the three examples I gave above. You buy the physical copy and the price of a digital copy is bundled into the price.
I know that there are people who don’t have e-readers who wouldn’t like that, and unfortunately I’m not quite sure how the system would be set up so that they aren’t paying more for an item they will never use. With records it seems to be a standard now to simply include the download code, and as far as I know, I’ve never heard anyone complain about getting a code that they don’t want or need. Or perhaps it could be done as they do with Blu-Rays where different editions will be put out, some which have the download code and some which don’t. I’m well aware that there are logistical issues that would be tied up in this, both for the publisher and the bookseller, and that there are distribution rights agreements that would make this difficult, but it’s an idea that I think would be nice, if not entirely feasible at this time.