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Old 02-10-2010, 05:39 AM   #1
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Physical eBooks

Video games are inherently digital, but the majority are sold as packaged media for use in a console/PC, as opposed to download. Many games, once played through, are not used much again, but they can be sold second hand, lent etc., because they are packaged physically. Although the security can be hacked, most people don't take advantage of this (too much hassle), and the games industry is doing very well.

Why couldn't this model work for ebooks? What I'm talking about is selling physical media with the ebook(s) on (e.g. an SD card). Sony could do this right now for some of its models with SD card slots. There could be an option to move the book securely to the device, so that you don't have to have the book in the reader to read it (perhaps rendering the version on the card unusable until you move it off again).

This model would have the advantage that ebooks could be sold alongside physical books, people would see what they were getting and perhaps be happier to pay the same price, they could be resold/lent etc.

Has this been attempted? Is it a mad idea?

The main blocker that I can see is the lack of standardisation in devices.

Thoughts?
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Old 02-10-2010, 06:00 AM   #2
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To me it would destroy one of the great advantages of ebooks. I can buy them at home sitting in my underwear at any hour of any day.

Also your game model is changing rapidly, The percentage of games downloaded instead of being bought in a store is rising. GameStop is already working on ways to get in on it, as they see real problems for them in the future. Online digital content is the future of all media, movies, games and books.

I have not bought a game in a store in years. I use direct2drive or steam for my gaming needs (which I will admit are not a lot lately)
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Old 02-10-2010, 06:16 AM   #3
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I wasn't proposing that direct download would be prohibited by this. My understanding is that Nintendo have the most successful consoles in the Wii/DS. For ordinary humans, these have the great advantage that you plug the game in and it just works. Its really easy to use. Ebooks are not like that yet - they are a massive haft to use.

My thought was that publishers might benefit from the use of physical media, not so much with the mobile read community - who are the pioneers in a fledgeling market - but with ordinary mortals who would struggle to download a file via Adobe, find it again (!) and load it across to their reader.

My Mum, who is a great reader, is interested in whether an ereader would suit her, but my main concern is the difficulty of getting content onto the device. I would anticipate a lot of support calls! Not so for a plug-and-play cartridge.
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Old 02-10-2010, 06:25 AM   #4
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The videogame model worked because, when it started, internet wasn't widespread and was way slower than it is now. So it was necessary to use some sort of digital support to hold and deliver the huge amount of data contained in a videogame.
Ebooks are very small, so downloading them is the quickest path. Even with a connection as slow as a 56k dialup the download time for an ebook is under 5 minutes.

Lately, as Bremen Cole pointed out, even the videogame industry is moving away from that model: they started with downloadable patches, then downloadable expansion packs, now even consoles (think the Wii) allow to buy online and download games directly on your machine.
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Old 02-10-2010, 09:12 AM   #5
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Even with SD cards being as inexpensive as they are right now you would still add at least dollar or two to the price of the books. Not only the cost of the physical media, there is distribution, management, storage, fulfilling, returns, etc associated with the media that is one of the cost savers of eBooks. Also, one of the reasons some people read eBooks is the reduction in environmental impact, distributing them on media, even an SD card or flash drive, would negate a lot of that benefit.

All of that is not to say however that brick and mortar stores may not begin to add something like this. Buy an eBook from them and, if you don't have your reader with you, they'll put the book on an SD card or thumb drive for you to take home, maybe with a deposit on it so there is some incentive for you to bring it back and, of course, get another book. Heck they might even market there own branded drives and give people that buy one a discount on books purchased in the store.
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Old 02-10-2010, 09:23 AM   #6
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I think the possibility of plug-and-play is a good idea; especially, as Ben suggests, for the vast group of people whose brains just go tilt when they get much past 'push this to turn it on and this to change the page', but who would love to use a dedicated reader if getting books was easy. Of course right now there's Amazon and Whispernet which is pretty easy, but with the distinct possibility of a price hike for a lot of their material that glow is dimming.

I bet I could even interest my mother in an ereader if she could just go to a bookstore with an SD card and say 'I'd like that book and that one and that one', and then just plug it in.

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Old 02-10-2010, 09:27 AM   #7
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As far as cost, physical space and environmental impact goes, providing a service like this with SD cards would still be vastly less on all those fronts than it is with physical books, and wouldn't add that much at all to things as they are now. As far as I can see.
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Old 02-10-2010, 09:30 AM   #8
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The main blocker that I can see is the lack of standardisation in devices.
That's it. Some reading device don't even have a card slot.

It may very well work for bestselling titles, compilations or series. Imagine the "Lord of the Rings" novels in a DVD case, a booklet with basic information about the races and a folded map. Would be nice.
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Old 02-10-2010, 09:36 AM   #9
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I love the idea. I can see there are a heap of practical difficulties. But basically nothing that can't be overcome - apart from the lack of SD card slots on some models. How do you go about suggesting this to bricks and morter stores?

It's especially suits me, because what I like least about ebooks is buying online, and what I like most about pbooks is brousing in a BM store. Being able to cancel the negative and retain the pluses would be brilliant.
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Old 02-10-2010, 09:38 AM   #10
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Actually some videogame companies have taken up a download model. I paid for and downloaded my The Sims 3 on the day of release in my home, on my computer, all 4 gb of the installation file. They too have a re-download policy and some form of DRM on my machine, quite like e-books too.

Having a physical ebook will encourage lending and reselling, something publishers want to avoid because of revenue and copyright, etc.
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Old 02-10-2010, 09:40 AM   #11
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What about a download code...

Something similar was done for some DVDs. They gave a download code in the box on a slip of paper. You could then use the code to get an electronic version of the movie. This is something that is of minimal cost to implement.

I don't think the idea of dual print and electronic versions is so far-fetched. It's just that nobody has tried it yet (to my knowledge, maybe someone has).

IMO, one of the main issues with buying e-books is that you have no physical copy of the book (if you want) - and the DRM issue. One can only hope that the business matures quickly, and that we get a solution like amazon offers for MP3s.

Bob
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Old 02-10-2010, 09:46 AM   #12
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I see one of the biggest advantages to having an ereader not having to go out to the bookstore. I usually check out library books at 2 am. But for those who continue to shop for books the old fashioned way, this might work. Actually, if they are going to charge $15, they are going to have to have some fancy packaging to lure people in.
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Old 02-10-2010, 10:00 AM   #13
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A potential advantage of physical media is that they might get round geographical restrictions. If an ebook was copied to a SD card by a store in the US and mailed to the UK (say) would that sale have occurred in the US? If, instead of a SD card, all that was sent was a letter containing a download code (as rjpawlak suggests) would the sale still have occurred in the US? Note that in both cases, a confirmation email could presumably be sent immediately with a "backup" download link. So you would not have to wait for the media to arrive.
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Old 02-10-2010, 10:29 AM   #14
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They did something similar with music with SanDisk's slot music, the prepackaging of albums on an SD card which could also be used as a normal SD card with the remainder of the space on the card. The problem is that people do not want to make their electronic media LESS accessible.

A physical SD card version of a book is a nice idea as far as ease of use and resale, but that requires a long term foresight that most consumers of electronics simply do not possess. Also a vast majority of folks who buy commercially available ebook readers and are not tech savvy will only be using the connected services (i.e. Amazon for the Kindle, B&N for the Nook, etc.) and will never even consider the possibility of going else where for their media because these places make downloading and transferring content so easy.

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Old 02-10-2010, 10:35 AM   #15
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Games are often large enough that, for most of their history, they could not be efficiently distributed and stored via the Internet. Many games now require DVD's, while ebooks are a tiny fraction of that size, and are easy to distribute even via cell data connections or slow Internet connections. As mentioned previously, online game sales is slowly picking up steam -- WiiWare, Steam, XBox Live, to name a few.

Adding physical media just means more Stuff to manufacture, distribute and throw out and/or lose -- including the packaging. Plus, it re-introduces an issue that is mitigated by online distribution: excess inventory. In order to get a paper book to all the places it needs to be for a potential sale, you need to make significantly more copies than will actually sell. Unsold paper copies are sent back to the distributor or publisher (for full credit), where they are remaindered or destroyed (and rarely recycled). Digital eliminates all that waste.

In addition, making a physical component doesn't really lock down the content in a way that makes reselling the file viable. As long as you can make a copy of the file, you can sell the card and keep the file. You'd still need an Internet-connected moderately restrictive DRM system to keep track of it (like B&N's Nook loaning system), and if you've got that, why bother with a physical object?

Schemes like these will not save the brick & mortar bookstores; they're a step backwards. Most bookstores will be casualties of the transition to digital, in the exact same way that music stores have largely disappeared from the landscape, despite already being delivered in a small, convenient, digital format -- the CD.
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