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Where and How to Give eBooks as Gifts

With the holidays rapidly approaching, our thoughts are turning to books and how to give them as gifts. With some stores like Amazon that is easy, but with other stores like Kobo it is difficult, and in the case of  iBooks it is simply not possible to gift an ebook.

As a general rule, I think it is better to give a gift card rather than an ebook. This lets the recipient choose the ebooks they want to buy, or perhaps use the funds to get a magazine subscription instead.

While it is fun to give books as a gift, it’s not always as much fun to get a book. One might already have the ebook in question, or it might not be to one’s taste, or the gift might have been purchased in the wrong store (iBooks vs Kindle, for example).

And that’s why I say give a gift card.

Here are a list of the main ebook retailers, as well as several of the bookstore chains in the US, UK, and Canada that also sell ebooks. Many of the sites in this list will let you buy an egift card which will be delivered via email, with the exception of Google Play, which only distributes their cards through brick and mortar stores.

Oh, and Kobo is another exception; they will let you gift an ebook, but they won’t sell you a gift card. Luckily those in the UK and Canada do have another option: they can get a gift card at WH Smith or Indigo, respectively, and use it to buy Kobo ebooks.

But wait, what if the recipient prefers one of the subscription ebook services?

You’re in luck; all three of the leading services offer gift cards, so you have the option of buying a 3, 6, or 12 month subscription to one of the services and then sending the gift by email.


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dave November 26, 2014 um 9:24 pm

It’s not a problem with Amazon. Last year my brother gave me a few as gifts, but I had read one and it was painless to get Amazon to remove it from my library & give full credit for a different purchase.

Fahirsch November 26, 2014 um 10:54 pm

I mantain a wishlist in Amazon, and send it to my children on appropiate times

LS November 26, 2014 um 11:00 pm

Yes I agree, go with a gift card!

SBT November 27, 2014 um 5:39 am

I would find a gift card more heartwarming if it was accompanied by a definite recommendation on exactly what to spend it on. It’s the thought that counts, isn’t it, and for me the thought behind an unspecified gift card is "I couldn’t be bothered to think of something you want, so you can find it yourself, as long as it is from this particular shop."

DavidW November 27, 2014 um 9:49 am

A gift card is a lousy gift. I’ve always enjoyed receiving and giving books in both paper and ebook form. Yes there is the chance that they won’t like that gift, but that is the danger with any gift! But it’s more thoughtful to give something. The gift card is the "I can’t be bothered to put in any effort in, so I’ll just go through the motions."

Anne November 27, 2014 um 12:42 pm

Most, if not all, in my family would disagree with you. I can’t speak for the other stores but with Amazon you can personalize your choice of ebook(s) to gift but it gives the recipient the choice of getting the book or just applying the card to their account.

With most of us being digital only readers, a gift card avoids the problem of buying a book the giftee may already have, saves them the time of having to "return" it for a different one and saves the author/publisher from having a return all while knowing we had personally selected the book we chose to gift to them.

LS November 28, 2014 um 2:03 am

I always prefer the gift card. Due to my vast library chances are I might already own the books they give me, or have read it & gave it away. There is also the problem that I only read what interests me & very few of the people I know actually share my taste in fiction. I would much rather get a gift card to apply to my wish list.

I do give books as gifts myself, but only the books my nieces & nephew ask for, since I’m known as the family member who can find any title they want.

Bill Smith November 27, 2014 um 12:03 pm

I prefer gift cards because that way I can be sure I’m getting what I really wanted instead of somebody getting something else entirely thinking they’re getting me what I want (reminds me of asking for Dungeons and Dragons in 8th grade and my Mom getting the Grabbing Dragons (or something to that effect) child’s board game thinking "it says Dragons, that must be it."

Gift cards with some personalized recommendations are always awesome though. also lets you gift a specific book (non-refundable); I don’t think you can buy a generic gift card.

Jason July 20, 2016 um 10:27 pm

I believe gift cards are impersonal and demonstrate a lack of emotional connection with the recipient. A gift giver shoudl demonstrate thier thoughtfulness in the choice of gift.

Note, this article probably needs to be revised, since I can’t seem to find a way to give a Kobo eBook, with only gift cards seemingly supported by Kobo as of 2016.

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