If you liked book tokens…

May 24, 2011 § 5 Comments

I was reading the blog of Mr Dean Wesley Smith this morning, specifically a post about a proposed way of selling electronic books as a physical product which can be stocked in a high street book shop. The idea is to print gift cards with a scratch-off panel on the back, underneath which will be a code. A code that can be entered at the checkout at, say, Smashwords to get a free download of a digital book. Or, in more detail direct from the original blog:

“Step #1: Publish your book to electronic publishing, including Smashwords. Set up the book for free on a Smashwords code page. (There are other ways to do this, but this is basic and simple for the moment.)

Step #2: Have a plastic credit-card-sized gift card printed with your book cover on one side.

Step #3: On the back of the card print the free Smashwords code under a black scratch-off bar plus directions and other information.

Step #4: Either give the card away as a promotion at signings and such or put the card into a cardboard hanger with a price and sell to bookstores.”

This is a stunning idea. It caught my attention immediately because it instantly made me think of the days of book tokens.

I was a terrifically nerdy kid, naturally, and the best thing about my birthday was when my grandparents’ book token arrived (£10) and I could go spend an hour picking out books at WHSmith’s. It was still possible to get two brand new books for £10 in those balmy days and that was the height of excitement for me. Now, if I try to re-imagine that childhood pleasure in light of some of these new developments… imagine selecting one’s two books with painstaking care and then being given a gift card for a free book download at the checkout. My little heart would possibly have exploded with joy. Since I was so seriously nerdy I would probably have loved the thrill of downloading it myself onto my kiddie e-reader (charmingly decorated with My Little Pony, I have no doubt). It’s the sort of thing that makes a ten-year-old feel quite grown-up.

You could stuff them in libraries too (the gift-cards, not the nerdy children or the pink e-readers) and that would have the added advantage of allowing the recipient to download the book immediately. It’s a great way of melding e-reading with physical books, bookshops and libraries and giving people reasons to visit both online and high street stores. All of that could happen within the next year or two. Looking further ahead, of course…

“The new future of books is almost here. Books on gift cards.

But they won’t be called “gift cards.”  They will be called “books.”

Electronic books in a physical product, for the same price, can now get into brick-and-mortar bookstores and make bookstores a great mark-up.

Customers can easily buy they, give them as gifts, even wrap them up as stocking-stuffers.

It is easy for any publisher of any size to do.

Gift Card Books take up less of the very expensive bookstore shelf room. You can get a hundred of these in the space of ten paperback books.”

An appealing idea. But what attracts me most to the notion at the moment is the ease of offering free e-books even to people who don’t habitually browse blogs, twitter or facebook or sign up for newsletters in order to hear about the downloads. There are people with e-readers who still love visiting libraries and bookshops (me, for one) and plenty who manage with e-readers but aren’t sufficiently internet-comfy to search up all the freebies. Perfect solution. And any dedicated reader brightens up at the words free book. 

Here is the link to the original post at ‘Think Like a Publisher’.



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§ 5 Responses to If you liked book tokens…

  • DarcKnyt says:

    That is, indeed, a terrifically intriguing idea, Ms. Charlotte. In a scenario, however, where the author is basically giving his books away (since the bookseller is collecting the money instead of the author), doesn’t this go back to the author — who will surely have to pay the bookseller to stock his/her books — come out on the short end of the financial stick? again?

    I’ll have to go read this article and see how the blog author solves the issue. Even if the bookseller can be convinced to sell on a consignment-type of arrangement, the author of the book isn’t going to make nearly the cut they would selling directly.

    I like the idea for the library though. That’s a neat one.

    • DarcKnyt says:

      Okay, now I see how it works a bit better. Very intriguing. While I wouldn’t want to have this be my sole method of getting my ebooks to readers (I still think Kindle, Smashwords, PubIt! and others are the best primary way), this IS an interesting second distribution stream.

      Very nice ideas, and I may just look into it. Thanks, Charlotte!

  • Charlotte says:

    Hi Darc,

    I’ve no doubt, really, that authors will continue to get a better deal with online distributors. Totally true. You can’t really beat 70-85% of the sale price on a book going to the author. But people are right to suggest that online book buyers are only part of the possible audience (a large and growing part, but still a part). Some recommend taking a traditional publishing contract alongside your self-publishing in order to reach those readers who are still buying primarily from bookstores (even if they own an e-reader); that idea has merit but I much prefer this proposed method of reaching those people. It looks like it would still benefit the author much more than a publishing contract.

    Thanks for the notes!

    • DarcKnyt says:

      Hi, Charlotte,

      I completely agree, and have, in fact, seen those recommendations from authors. The problem with doing dual pronged approaches (both traditional contract — IF you can get one — and self-ePublishing) is the rights to the e-version won’t be negotiable with your traditional publisher. That’s where most authors lose their shirts in the deal. They just can’t make the publisher play fair with those e-rights.

      But this idea is a good one for indies looking to get into brick-and-mortar places without having to go through POD publishing and dealing with books in inventory. Very good for promotional purposes, too.

      Thank YOU for the wonderful article and link.

  • DarcsFalcon says:

    What an interesting idea! It sounds like it has a lot of possibilities. 🙂

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