Why don’t books come with e-books?

When I buy a physical book in a store, why don’t they throw in a certificate that would allow me to download the book to an e-reader?  Sure, they’re forgoing the possibility that I might pay separately for both book and e-book; but do people really do that?  And moreover:  if all the books I bought came with a free download, it would drastically increase the odds that I would buy an e-reader  — because with the device, I could have easy access to the book I’m reading when I’m not in the house, without having to carry it around.

(Current system is to have one light paperback that I carry around and a hardback at home, and read in parallel.)

And even moreover:  regular Nook users presumably don’t buy the e-book for $10 and then get the paperback for another $15.  They just skip buying the paperback.  But if they could buy both for $15, mightn’t they?

But maybe the point is that publishers don’t want to sell physical books, except when they’re forced to by virtue of some people not having e-readers yet.  So that they actually lose money if their e-customers buy a book instead of an e-book.  Is that how it is?

Update:  Also, I realized it’s not completely obvious to me how you would sell the customer an e-book in a physical store.  You can’t just have a “get your e-book free” code printed in the book — people would just share the codes.

6 thoughts on “Why don’t books come with e-books?

  1. Rob H. says:

    I am totally with you on this one. Music companies do it with vinyl, let’s have book publishers do it with books. Please.

  2. Andy P says:

    It would be easy to do this — just have a one-use code printed on the receipt and set it up so that once you use the code, you can’t return the book.

  3. SRT says:

    Errr. Ditto. One time codes are used all over the place (e.g. iTunes gift card redemption.) Personally I like the bundling idea. This is used to good effect in the Blu-Ray/DVD/online digital copy setup for movies.

  4. Evan B. says:

    One of my favorite science fiction writers, Lois McMaster Bujold, bundled with the hardback edition of the final book of a series an actual physical CD-ROM containing ebooks for (almost) the entire series.

    Her publisher for the series though was Baen (probably the only major science fiction publisher that offers DRM-free ebooks for sale at all). I suspect that most publishers would be uninterested in bundling due to fears of piracy and the used market.

    In the case of textbooks, those fears would probably be justified: many students would buy the bundle to use the ebook and sell the physical book immediately, leading to many fewer students students buying the book from the publisher. (Not that I have any sympathy for the publishers given the market failure they’re exploiting with regard to textbooks…)

  5. Jeff says:

    I think Baen does that for most of its series. I know that they did it for David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, which has ~20 or so novels/collections within its universe.

  6. […] Last year I wondered why print books didn’t come bundled with e-books.  Today Amazon announced Matchbook:  for a limited add-on price, ranging from nothing to $3, you can get e-books of print books you’ve previously bought from Amazon. […]

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