A Possible Future for Multiple Book Formats


Our book-buying habits are changing.

Paper book sales are on the up whilst digital book sales are on the way down, and audiobook sales are growing.

Perhaps what is happening is that, after an initial bias towards digital books due to their shiny-new-novelty and an increase in audiobook subscription-based libraries such as Audible, our book-buying habits are balancing out into a marketplace where all formats can co-exist happily.


All three formats have a place in our lives.

The experience of touching a book can be as important as the words contained within that book.  Through notes written in the margins, and the crinkles, creases and coffee stains, a physical book takes on a uniqueness that expresses something of the owner.  An e-reader, however beautiful the case, does not look nearly as impressive on a shelf in our living room, bedroom or study as a collection of books.  Nor does it so articulately express our personality.

On the other hand, my e-reader currently holds around 350 books. I do not have the storage space in my house for so many physical copies.  I love the instant access I can have to any of these titles at a moment’s notice, anywhere, so long as I have my e-reader with me.  It is always with me.

An audiobook is completely hands-free.  I like to listen to big, complex, historical novels while I garden; to non-fiction while I travel; to fantasy while I cook.


Given that each format satisfies different functions and ways of accessing the words, I have long thought that I would enjoy a way of owning all three formats of any given title, that wouldn’t mean spending a small fortune:  One for the bookshelf (to admire, touch, smell, and perhaps even scribble in), one for my e-reader (to take with me everywhere), and one for my portable audio device (so I can contemplate novel ideas and concepts, even while my hands are occupied).

Physical books have a cost per copy printed.  Digital and audio-download editions cost nothing per copy; all the production expenses happen upfront.  It doesn’t cost any more to produce 1000 audio-download or digital copies of a book, than to produce one.

So, I propose this to the publishing world:  When selling the paper-copy of a title, offer the option of purchasing the digital and audio-download versions at the same time, for an additional fee which provides a sensible discount on the cost of purchasing each format separately.


I’m intrigued to know what other booklovers think of this idea.

Would you purchase a book in all three formats?

Perhaps you work in Publishing and think this idea is insane/impractical/intriguing*. (*Delete as applicable.)

Leave me a comment below, share your thoughts.



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