Why Not Paper + Electrons
Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on November 19, 2007
Reader doog has an interesting comment on my colleague Rob Hof’s post on Amazon.com’s Kindle e-book reader: “Wake me up when the hardware costs no more than the price of, say, an iPod Shuffle, I can get titles at a nominal cost, and I can somehow get e-copies of titles I already own on paper at a very nominal cost.” (You can read my review of Kindle here.)
A price drop to the iPod Shuffle level isn’t in the near-term outlook, though getting into the 8 GB Nano range might be if volume can drive the cost down. And paper and printing represent a surprisingly small part of the cost of a book, though inventory and returns are significant cost factors that e-books don’t incur. But it’s the idea of buy a paper book, get an e-book that caught my attention.
Here’s how it might work. When you buy a book from Amazon, you can get the e-book version for maybe a buck or two extra. Since the Kindle is tied to a specific Amazon account a Kindle owner’s purchase of a paper version could automatically generate a credit for the download. Implementing this would require negotiating additional rights with publishers and perhaps authors, which is why the electronic copy can’t be free. But it probably could be quite inexpensive.