DISCUSSION: AutoRip for Books? (Automatic Digital Download)

As a reminder, this is a feature that I’m starting (hopefully once a week or so). I’ve done some research on a topic that I now present to you. Then I have a few questions at the bottom. Feel free to discuss, but remember to always be kind in your comments.

Amazon-AutoRipIn 2013, Amazon introduced two new features. One was called AutoRip where you could download the MP3 version of qualifying CDs for free (as long as you had purchased the original CD from Amazon). What a great feature! Now you can have the physical CD but also download the music right away. So convenient! It kind of makes sense, right? You already bought the music so why not be able to download for free? You already paid for it!

The second feature that Amazon introduced in 2013 was Kindle Matchbook. For any qualifying physical book that you have purchased from Amazon since 1995, you can purchase a digital copy of it for $2.99 or less. Seems like kind of the same idea, right? You’ll probably end up having to pay a little bit, but $2.99 isn’t bad.

These features got me thinking about why other bookstores (let’s say…Barnes and Noble) don’t do something like this? Technically, it would cost very little to supply free eBooks to those who have purchased physical copies in-store or online. I doubt that they would lose much revenue from their eBook sales (how many people buy the physical book and then go pay for the eBook as well?) I propose that it would only help their profits by creating an incentive for people to shop at their store as opposed to alternatives. I’ve had the dilemma of, “I’d like to have a physical copy of this book…but I’d also like to have the convenience of having it on my Kindle…but I only have enough money to do one of those things.”

Now, I could see people wondering about the flip-side of the argument, “If I buy an eBook shouldn’t they supply me a physical copy?” My answer to this is…no, I don’t think so. This is because it would actually cost companies money to do that. Electronic forms of media are free to reproduce and would not cut into profit margins while supplying eBook customers with physical copies would (it’s just not practical). In addition, when you buy a physical book, you buy more than just the words on the page. You buy the book cover, the pages, the feel of a book in your hands. When you buy an eBook, you’re just buying the words (words that you already have when you’ve purchased the physical copy). So supplying an eBook to people who have purchased physical copies (in my mind) is supplying them with something that they already have. Whereas the other way, the customer would be receiving something extra.

Here are my questions for you: Should bookstores supply customers with a free copy of the eBook when a physical copy is purchased? Or do you think people should have to pay a little bit like with Amazon’s Kindle Matchbook program? Would this be a feature that you would utilize?