When the e-book became a thing, I had the same feeling my father had when MP3s became ubiquitous: terrified of my favorite bookstores, indie and otherwise, shuttering down forever. I had images of the print book dissolving into the annals of history, and I imagined the future like that story The Fun They Had, where kids don’t know what real books are and read from monitors as if books were just words to fill a screen. I love books; I love smelling the pages (yes, I’m one of those), feeling how much I’ve read and how much I have left to read, and I love having shelves full of books surround me in my home. E-books, while convenient on a train, simply cannot measure up.
A couple years ago I was discussing this e-book revolution with my sister and/or father and/or anyone who would listen to my anguished conversation and I told them how much better it would be if print books and e-books were marketed and sold together. Instead of paying $15 for a paperback, it would be $20 for a combination paperback and e-book, so you could choose to download the file to your reader and still have the aesthetic pleasure that a print book provides. I do this now: when I read Les Mis, Anna Karenina, all of Jane Austen’s works (all of the many times!), and other classics in the public domain, I always downloaded the e-book and read them from my Kindle when the situation arose. At home, I read the print book. After I finished the book, I had the print version on my shelves and all my book dreams were satisfied. As publishers see e-book sales declining or notice that e-books are becoming more a niche market, I wondered that they didn’t try to market both formats, to target those who value both convenience and the age-old pleasure of holding a book.
Well, I walked into my local B&N a few days ago and saw this display:
And I thrilled. This is the B&N “Sync Up!” system. Amazon has something similar, in that they’ll give you a discount on the e-book version of a book you’ve already purchased from them in the past, but the deal doesn’t cover used books, which so many book lovers on Amazon buy. B&N’s ploy is also different in that it markets both versions together and offers a discount on the e-book, which, I think, is the perfect combination. Now, for the first time, I can buy a bestseller with my B&N discount and receive the option to purchase the e-book for less. I don’t have to choose between formats. It’s a great marketing scheme for B&N, and I think it has the potential to make sure the print book doesn’t go the way of records, a.k.a. only something a hipster or music purist owns. It’s a “limited time offer” but if it does well it may stay. And seeing that display, I saw all my visions of shuttering bookstores and obsolete print books slipping away. At least for now.
So thank you, B&N. For stealing my idea 😉