Ask a Reader: Bundling

We’ve reviewed the questions submitted during our Ask a Reader campaign and realized that some of the answers could be found in recent research we’ve already conducted. Huzzah! So we’ve taken to the blog to share some of that data.

Q: Would you be more likely to purchase a print book if you received the ebook for free? What if there was a nominal upcharge for the ebook?

In a world where people increasingly consume their content on multiple platforms, book bundling is not a new idea. Many publishers are now offering a free ebook download with the purchase of a print book, effectively giving buyers a second version of the same book. Some publishers (including trade and higher education publishers) are now teaming up with third-party companies like Shelfie (formerly BitLit), a start-up with a free app that allows readers to purchase the ebook edition of a book they own at a discounted price, to help them sell bundles to consumers. Even Amazon has entered the bundling game with the launch of the Kindle Matchbook, which allows you to buy the Kindle edition of a book at a reduced price after purchasing the print copy.

Not only does bundling allow publishers to increase the revenue of the initial print sale, it also promotes brand recognition by meeting consumer demand. In particular, the adoption of bundling initiatives as a sales tactic for new frontlist titles suggests that publishers think of bundling as something that offers sufficient added value to customers, which can persuade them to make a purchase. There also seems to be a growing realization among publishers that bundling services provide a unique opportunity to accommodate the reading habits of the new hybrid reader. In BookNet Canada's study on The State of Digital Publishing in Canada 2014, 49% of publishers indicated that they have more than half their titles available digitally. The same study shows that with 27% of publishers currently experimenting with bundling services, more publishers are experimenting with book bundling and 20% of publishers were considering the possibility of bundle offerings within the next year.

BookNet Canada's research also indicates that some readers are interested in owning both print and ebook versions of a book. In a 2015 consumer survey, over half of respondents indicated that they only wish to have the print copy, 22.5% of respondents say that they would pick one print book over another if it came with a copy of the ebook, and 11.2% would pay a slightly higher price to get both. The segment of consumers who are only interested in owning the ebook version decreased from 13.3% in 2012 to 9.6% in 2015, which could indicate that marrying print and digital together offers more value for today's readers.

Interest in bundling remains steady

  Which of the following statements do you agree with? (N=809)

Which of the following statements do you agree with? (N=809)

While bundling is still a relatively new concept, awareness of it is increasing between publishers and readers. Readers are slowly becoming more interested in this hybrid reading between print and digital editions, and more publishers are finding ways to cater to consumer needs. While there is not substantial growth or decline in interest from readers from 2012 to 2015, there is a shift taking place as publishers experiment with bundling options, and readers figure out what is important to them in terms of format.