How and Why to Bundle Your Ebooks and Pbooks

 BitLit

Ebooks or pbooks? 

What if you could have both? That’s right—your library, in both pbook and ebook formats. We often think in terms of one or the other, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

There’s an app for that

Ebook and print bundling has been available at the point of sale for some time via Amazon’s Kindle MatchBook, but a recently launched app from BitLit now makes it possible to get a free or low-priced ebook copy of the print books you already own.

BitLit’s target users are hybrid readers—its tagline is “the feel of a book and convenience of an ebook.” They’ve done their homework and determined that only about 4 percent of American readers are digital-only. As Mary Alice Elcock, BitLit’s content VP explains, hybrid readers want the look and feel of a print book, and the convenience—while travelling, for instance—of an ebook. And they can have this for the same price, or just slightly more, than the cost of a print book.   
So far, BitLit has partnered with more than 120 publishers and has 20,000 titles in its catalogue. They’re also running a “two for one” promotion in a growing list of bookstores. “The overwhelming majority of titles available through BitLit are not out-of-copyright works.” In other words, there’s no public domain epub file available, so BitLit is not in competition with sites like Project Gutenberg.  
I first heard of BitLit last fall when I read Porter Anderson’s interview in The Bookseller with Peter Hudson, BitLit’s founder. At that time it was still in beta. The idea intrigued me, though, so when I learned a few weeks ago that the app was now available, I was eager to try it. 

How it works

It’s easy. Instructions on the site are good for walking you through the process, but here are the basics.
1. Begin by downloading the app for iOS or Android. Create an account, and log in.
2. Choose the book you want to get an ebook copy of. To find eligible books, you can search by publisher, title, or author, or you can scroll through available titles. Many are free. Most of the others range in price from $0.99 to $4.99, with a few priced a bit higher.
It took me a while to find a book in the BitLit catalogue that I (still) owned in print. Keep in mind that it’s early days for BitLit, and they’re in the process of acquiring more content. 
3. Take a picture of your print book using the BitLit app. Tap the camera icon at the top right of your iPhone screen or the navigation icon on your Android device. Follow the prompts to scan your book, keeping it inside the contour lines provided. Here’s what my book looks like:
4. Print your name on the copyright page of the book and take a picture of it. 
5. When your ownership is verified, BitLit will email you an epub, mobi or pdf file, ready to read. They’ll do audio, too. Elcock says, “We work with each of our publishers directly, and they supply their own files and metadata—as they would for any other vendor.”   
I received an epub version of Wayne Grady’s The Great Lakes—it was the first title I came upon that I owned a print copy of. The hardcover has many illustrations and photographs, and all of them show up nicely in Adobe Digital Editions.  

Why would you want ebooks and pbooks?

Rich Adin, who blogs at An American Editor, commented recently that if it were always available, he would always buy the bundle. Many would agree. There’s an appetite for bundling among consumers, and there are many applications for print and digital bundles. Here are a few:
For travellers: The convenience of packing a single device speaks for itself.
For teachers: Every class has a range of learners with a range of preferences, and you should be able to offer your students both formats. Digital reading offers so many benefits to students, especially those who are English language learners or who have learning disabilities: text-to-speech capabilities, read-aloud features, built-in dictionaries, variable text size, and the option to highlight and compile notes, to name just a few. Educators have only begun to tap into the learning opportunities made possible with e-readers.
For students: Ebooks offer the same advantages that they do for teachers. They’ll also save your spine and your posture by lightening your backpack! The dictionaries, notes feature and opportunities for social reading available on e-readers and tablets are changing education and literacy. Read in print if you like, then go to the digital text to search, expand your understanding, and share it with others. 
For higher ed students: The ability to scan a digital text for keywords is a boon for research and essay writing. But that’s just the beginning: computing and data analysis tools are changing both how we study literature and the humanities and how we understand them and make meaning. It’s thrilling. 
For anyone who might have to move: One day you will probably downsize—possibly from a few thousand square feet to a few hundred. If you already own a digital copy of your favourite books, it might be easier to part with print down the road. See benefits for travellers, above.
Is bundling a way readers can transition from print to digital? It seems like that would be the logical next step, but Mary Alice Elcock at BitLit says the research doesn’t support this theory. At least not right now. In time, that 4 percent who are digital-only will probably increase as readers become more used to digital text and as more books are available only as ebooks. In the meantime, readers have many choices about how they’ll read, and the important thing, really, is that they keep on reading.  
What about you? Do you have books in print and digital formats? Tell us how you use these bundled titles—we’d love to hear from you!

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