The Publishing in the 21st Century blog has recently posted an article about Oprah Winfrey’s current Oprah Book of the Month, a twin Edition of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations, available as e-books for a price on Amazon, sold at bookstores, and available for free (for the kindle only) at the publisher’s website.
There has been a lot of back and forth about why books are priced as they are. Penguin, the publisher of this edition, claims the e-book is enhanced from the free versions offered directly from them. This seems to be a reasonable assertion considering how much effort goes into designing and editing the additional contents of an e-book, and editing the source material for the new format to begin with.
For physical editions, the cover price has to pay for, in addition to the editing costs of the new supplementary materials, printing, binding, shipping, and the labor of the folks at the bookstore in displaying and handling the books. In this case, the bookseller also has to deal with getting additional signage up and promoting the new edition in newsletters and advertisements.
But why a physical edition of this book? From my own personal perspective, e-readers have now matured sufficiently to allow markups, i.e., taking notes, directly in the text and those notes are effortlessly synchronized to the computer, so papers can be researched entirely electronically without paper and pencil. The only other reason for owning a physical copy, in my mind, is to get the author’s autograph.
But with this edition of Cities/Expectations there is one other factor. Oprah will be leaving the airwaves shortly, which means that her impact on the industry by selecting a pick of the month will also disappear (although she may continue this in her magazine). For the sake of continuity, or perhaps for the sake of collecting, many readers will purchase a physical copy for the sake of completing their Oprah Book Club Library.
Assuming you owned a current e-reader model, is there a reason you would want the physical book instead of the e-book?