This blogger may be an inveterate ebook devotee but I still buy used paper books when they are cheaper. So when a reader tipped me to an online bookseller which offered to scan the used books you buy and send you a PDF instead of the paper copy, I knew I'd found my new bookseller.
Better World Books is a 12 year old online bookstore which sells both new and used books as well as textbooks, DVDs, and audiobooks. That sounds like a lot of bookstores, but around this time last year BWB added a service which few booksellers can match.
If you buy a used ebook, you now have the option of having BWB feed it though a scanner so they can send you a scanned image+text PDF. This eDelivery option is not available for all used titles, and the scanning process is destructive, so it's not a solution for all cases. But it will get you a DRM-free PDF which BWB says will have searchable text.
And with a price of only $1 to $3 (on top of the price of the paper book), I have to say that I am sorely tempted.
I'm not in the market to buy any books right now, so I haven't tried the service yet. But I know that the high prices of certain ebooks from some publishers will make it worthwhile.
Let me give you an example.
Over Christmas I bought a bunch of books, including all 3 Norton titles. These 3 books feature a Scottish Fold cat, and were published in the late 1980s and 1990s by Random House. The books are so old that you can find paper copies for $4 to $6 each, but since these are PRH titles the ebooks all cost $10 each.
Naturally I bought the paper copies, and spent about $14.
Those 3 titles are not available via BWB's eDelivery service, but if they were I would get them in a heartbeat. DRM-free PDFs for two-thirds the price of the Kindle edition? That sounds like a great deal!
Okay, this isn't going to work so well for titles which I want to keep forever, but in many cases it is still going to be a better option than the paper book. The PDF can be scrolled, zoomed, panned, and printed. And while this scanned PDF won't always be a better option than a regular ebook, if it is enough cheaper than the official ebook then I won't care.
Now, I haven't tried the service, but I did get a single page sample from a friend, William O'Neil. As you can see, the page scan is quite readable when you zoom in.
I also have it as a PDF. Thanks, William!
So what do you think?
I for one am amazed that scanning tech is cheap enough and simple enough that this is practical, but I can also see that this service only exists because of unhealthy prices in the ebook market.
For the longest time I've thought that publishers should price their backlist ebook low enough that they are competitive with used copies. Had they done so, BWB's eDelivery service would have no appeal.
If those 3 Norton books had been priced reasonably, I would have bought the ebooks. This would put the money in the pocket of the publisher and author, but instead I acted in my own best interests and bought used copies.
That is money which publishers are leaving on the table.