It is now almost one year since I bought my Nook Color.  Some things have changed – I definitely access more books than I used to, and some of it (maybe 30-40%) is digital.  But I confess I’m still primarily a paper reader.  For me, it’s a matter of comfort, and I just can’t use the Nook Color as my primary reading source.

But my friend came over the other day and looked at my shelves and shelves of books.  And she said, “Wow. You have a lot of books.”  She’s not wrong – guesstimating, I’d say I have about 350-500 romance novels, depending on whether I have random stacks hidden away somewhere (which is probably a yes), and most of which I’ve accumulated in the last two years.  And I still gain about 4-5 romances a month.

Well, what if my house burns down?  Am I going to have to lose all those books?  It seems stupid not to take advantage of the digital age and just get eBooks.  I’m sure most of us agree that uniformity amongst the publishers has far to go, but the convenience, pricing, and durability of an eBook make total sense at this point.  And yet why shouldn’t I buy a paper copy if I want, especially since they’re still available, and it’s what works for me?

Then it hit me: Digital copies.  They don’t do it for CDs, because it’s legal to buy a CD then make a digital copy yourself.  But they do it for DVDs, because it’s illegal to rip a DVD, even if you own it.  So you pay a little more, get extra features or Blu-Ray, and get licensed to download a digital copy of your DVD.  And you’ll have it for all eternity.  (Frankly, the legality of ripping CDs versus DVDs doesn’t make much sense to me, but whatever.  They’re both on their way out.)

So what if publishers offered digital copies for books?  Let’s say I want Mary Balogh’s latest Signet reissue, retailing in paper for $7.99.  I don’t want to read her solely on my eBook reader, but I want the option of doing so in the future, if said house burns down or I go on a long trip, or whatever.  Would I be willing to pay a little more to have that freedom?  Provided the additional cost is no more than 25% of the paper value – i.e., $7.99 + $2.00 = $9.99 for paper and digital bundle – yup, I’d pay that.

From a publisher’s perspective, I could see it going two ways.  On the one hand, they’re cutting into their future eBook profit when people “re-buy” their book at a later date, which people are already doing, sometimes regardless of the state of the paper copy.  But on the other hand, would people be more likely to buy a book now if they know that they’ll have it forever?  I could see this logic working in favor of bricks and mortar bookstores, too, and anyway, once people come in and start buying book-eBook bundles, getting them to come back may be a lot easier.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this, in the poll below and in the comment section.  What do you think about the idea of book digital copies?  Is someone doing it already?  Who would it benefit most?  Do you think publishers and distributors would ever be on board with it?

– Jean AAR

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