Between December 20 and 24, customers who go to a Barnes & Noble physical store and buy an ebook from a list of 20 qualifying ebooks — including The Hobbit, Life of Pi and the entire Hunger Games trilogy – can “instant-gift” another ebook on that list for free.
Notably, the list includes new and bestselling titles from big-six publishers who settled in the DOJ’s ebooks case — Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Hachette. The settlement allows retailers nearly unlimited discounting on settling publishers’ ebooks — including giving away ebooks for free — but this is the first such promotion we’ve seen. From Barnes & Noble’s perspective, the buy-one, get-one offer has the advantage of being difficult for Amazon’s algorithms to match since the transaction has to take place in stores (which for some shoppers might be a deal breaker) and none of the books are actually listed online as free. (That said, it will be interesting to watch today to see if and how Amazon responds with Kindle prices.)
Customers pick the books they want and go to a cashier. “At checkout, the cashier will ask you to provide two email addresses, one for your Nook Book and another for your gift recipient’s. The gift recipient will receive his/her email immediately, or you can request a gift receipt to give by hand at a later time.” The recipient gets “an access code that can be redeemed for the free book at BN.COM/redeem.”
What interests me here is the idea that you can buy a book and then share the book with a friend easily. Of course, the precise approach here is a little strange. For starters, it asks you to share a book that you probably haven’t read yet with a friend. Or maybe, it can encourage shared reading which is not a bad idea. And it is a little funny that you need to go to a physical store — although there is some Amazon story there.
In any case, as I wrote in Information Wants to be Shared, allowing for easy sharing of books between consumers — a so-call peer economy — will likely raise demand for those books and reading in general.