Nostalgia City Mysteries

Mark S. Bacon

Few dollars faded

E-books: for a few dollars more

For many readers, electronic books are convenient but not a substitute for the printed variety.  E-books are handy for reading on planes, trains and in bed, but you can’t line a bookshelf with them, you can’t scrawl notes on them with a pen and you can’t read them without electricity.

Some people, myself included, like both.  Too bad we have to choose.  But why should we?

Publishers should offer an electronic version of a book–for a few dollars more, say $3–to those who buy a hardback or trade (larger format) paperback.

When you buy software online you’re often given the option to pay a little more and receive the program on a disk, in addition to your download.   Some books, notably how-tos and computer books, come with disks.  Some nonfiction books direct you to a website to obtain additional information.   An electronic option for printed books sounds like a winner.

It’s difficult to see disadvantages in this for either publisher, bookseller or reader.  It probably would not affect separate e-book sales–except for e-book-only publishers and sellers–and it could be a boost for hardbacks and paperbacks.   Yes, it would cut down revenue for books for which individuals typically buy the printed and electronic versions.  But how often does that happen?

I’ve done it once.  I bought the 944-page Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s masterpiece about Lincoln and his cabinet, in paperback.  Then before I read it, I bought the Kindle version.  The e-book was easier to tote around and although annotating on a Kindle is not speedy, I made lots of notes.  Later I transferred many of my notes and highlighting to the print version.  (This is a book not just to read but to study and I’ve loaned it to a friend.)   I treasure my paperback version.  The pictures of Lincoln and his cabinet are easy to find and it has a prominent place on my bookshelf next to other books about that historical period.

Together, the books cost about $30.  (Prices have come down slightly since.)  This expensive double purchase three years ago demonstrates the many values in getting an electronic version and a printed book.  Not many people buy both versions of a book, but they would–if it was possible for just a few dollars more.

I did not, alas, come up with this concept.  It was one of a variety of otherwise impractical or unnecessary ideas scattered throughout an article by Kane Hsieh on  But what an idea.

You heard it here, second.


Team of Rivals

Gizmodo article on e-books

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