I came across this article the other day about the future of bundling. Bundling, if you're too lazy to read the article, is when a publisher takes multiple forms of a book and puts them together to sell as a single item. In this case, they're talking about bundling ebooks with print copies, and what it is the customer expects vs what the publisher is willing to provide.
Most customers, it would seem, want to get a free copy of the ebook with their print copy. Well, duh. Consumers want to get more for their buck. I know it irritates me when I can either buy the ebook for $10 and get the convenience of reading it on my kindle, OR I can get a paperback for $8 and have something both cheap and that I can one day get signed, OR pay out the butt for the hardcover or trade paperback and have something I'm proud to have on the bookshelves in my office.
The article puts forth that ebooks will one day be free with a copy of the print book, and that will be the industry standard. Sounds great! Yet...
I hope not. The biggest argument has to do with driving down the prices of the books, which drives down the amount publishers will pay authors for advances, then the quality of work suffers, etc.
As a consumer, it would not make a different to me buying a paperback that came with a free ebook. I feel the two formats fill the same role: a small item that can be read practically anywhere. I have not once bought both a paperback and an ebook of the same book. Sure, it would be nice, but it's not a big selling point.
I won't say the same thing for trade paperback or hardcover. These are books I want for my bookshelf. I want the covers to be big and beautiful, I want to sit on the couch and read them in the comfort of my own home. I want to get them signed by my favorite authors. But I also want to be able to read them at my convenience, and have, and would again, purchase an ebook version of a hardcover or trade paperback I already own.
Yet I don't own a lot of them.
My nice books take up a single shelf of the dozens of shelves worth of books I have. I want more. I can't afford it. I can either get 3 new paperbacks, or (in most cases) a single hardcover. Or I can go to Half Price Books or Amazon and get 6 books or more. When you have the reading list I do, it's not an acceptable trade for the hardcover.
However, I'd start buying more hardcovers if they came with a free ebook. And I'd certainly pay a little more ($2-$4) for a trade paperback that came with an ebook. It would be worth it to me for the convenience. I'd feel as if I was getting two books for my $25 instead of just the one.