BitLit has spent the past couple years developing an unusual bundling platform based on apps for Android and iOS. A user buys the paper book in whichever bookstore they like (used, even), personalizes it, and then uses the BitLit app to take a few photos to prove that the book had been bought.
You can watch a demo in the following video:
Once those photos are uploaded to BitLit's servers, the user will be given the option of acquiring the matching ebook. BitLit has over 200 publishers signed up, including HarperCollins, O'Reilly, Angry Robot Books, and publishers distributed by IPG. The terms under which the ebook is sold or given away vary between publishers; some do give away the ebook while others charge. HarperCollins charges $2 to $3 for DRMed ebooks, with the transaction handled via its retail platform.
Elsevier will be selling the bundled ebooks at a discount. The ebooks will be offered at three different price points as part of a test of the potential market.
BitLit’s CEO, Peter Hudson said, "BitLit is excited to be working with forward-thinking publishers, like Elsevier, who recognize their readers’ desire to be able to access their materials in all formats. Elsevier has long held a leadership role in technological advancements, so it comes as no surprise they would be early to offer ebook bundling to their readers."
I knew BitLit had the potential to be a major player in academic ebooks when I first spotted them last July (long before their platform launched) and the deal they announced today with Elsevier could well make that happen.
Even though some publishers like O'Reilly have been offering them for years, print/digital bundles are still a nebulous market. Lately there's a lot of interest from many directions, including Amazon, which launched the Kindle Matchbook program this summer, Bookshout, which has a different and competing bundle platform, and even Kobo has gotten into the act with a partnership with HarperCollins and an Australian indie bookseller.
No one knows yet where this market will go, but one thing I can tell you is that gossip at publishing conferences will be interesting for the next year or so.