BitLit Signs Macmillan to its eBook/Print Bundle Platform, Will Likely Thrive Under Agency

Tor-Carousel-Facebook1Ever the cautious sort, Macmillan  announced today that it had partnered with the Canadian startup BitLit to offer print/ebook bundles.  Macmillan  will be distributing 3,000 titles to the service, including works published by Tor-Forge Books as well as  Farrar, Straus & Giroux and St. Martin’s Press.

Once again, Tor is playing the sacrificial lamb. As anyone with a long memory can tell you, in 2012 Tor was the first (and so far only) Macmillan imprint to go DRM-free. And then  in June 2014 Tor was also the first Macmillan imprint to distribute titles to a subscription ebook service (Skoobe in Germany, to be exact).

Macmillan is joining around 330 other publishers, including HarperCollins, which signed with Bitlit in July 2014, in offering ebooks through a novel ex post facto ebook bundling platform. Unlike regular ebookstores, BitLit only sells ebooks to those who already own a paper copy.


Those ebooks can be purchased via BitLit's app for Android and iOS, but before they can buy one a customer must first prove they own the corresponding print edition (hence the term ex post facto) by using the BitLit app to take a photo of the personalized copyright page.

Bitlit then uses automated algorithms (backed up by Amazon's mechanical turk) to confirm the proof of ownership, after which the customer is directed to a page where they can purchase or download the ebook.

Since adding Wiley in January, BitLit has increased its catalog count by an additional 20,000 ebooks and now offers around 100,000 titles, including ten thousand from HarperCollins.

The terms vary between publishers; some offer their ebooks DRM-free, and some give the ebooks away, but others only allow BitLit to sell the ebooks (usually at a discount from the regular retail). HarperCollins, for example, handled the ebook sale through its own retail site during the pilot last year but later switched to letting BitLit process the transaction.

BitLit requires customers to jump through an awful lot of hoops just to buy an ebook, and I'm not convinced that this idea will succeed.

But, Macmillan is willing to give it a shot. BitLit is selling the Macmillan titles for $3 each, and the Tor ebooks will come sans-DRM.

I think BitLit's platform is too complicated, but it could be worth the hassle. Now that four of the Big 5 publishers have gone agency again, their high ebook prices have created an opportunity for customers to buy a cheap used paperback and pay to get an ebook at combined price which is less than the ebook's retail price

I'll need to check HarperCollins to see if their prices are worth it, but Macmillan titles will be. For example, I can buy a hardback of Larry Niven's Fleet of Worlds for $4. The BitLit ebook will cost $3, which still comes to a dollar less than the retail price in the Kindle Store.

I'm not sure I will go for this with very many titles (I'd rather borrow from the library) but it is nice to have the option.



About Nate Hoffelder (10614 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

2 Comments on BitLit Signs Macmillan to its eBook/Print Bundle Platform, Will Likely Thrive Under Agency

  1. I think I’ll check that out. I have some TOR Hardcovers that I wouldn’t mind having as e-books if the price is right or free :).

  2. I tried the app and it’s pretty neat. I took a picture of a bunch of books on my shelf and it recognized all but one of them correctly. It was the TOR hardcovers I mentioned earlier. It gave me the option to buy the books for $2.99 each.
    Not sure I’ll actually buy any of them at that price but it’s nice to have the option.

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