Bundling is a great idea when it comes to books. One of the major differences between the book industry and the music or DVD industry is that you can’t digitize the existing physical content. You can easily burn your existing and purchased CDs and it is becoming easier to do the same with DVDs, although is currently illegal. However it is next to impossible to digitize a print book (unless you’re Google and have the patience to scan an entire book page by page).
But why would you want an eBook and a print book of the same title? While eBooks are very convenient there are also numerous restrictions. Being able to purchase both the print and eBook together would only add to readers’ convenience and give them a handy backup if their digital library is ever deleted or blocked. All the functions not allowed by an eBook are of course allowed with a print book so there is definitely an attraction to being able to have both. Also you don’t technically own an eBook, you only purchase a license to read the file so if you have purchased (and own) a print book you should also have the right to read it digitally.
The major stumbling point for bundling is device, format and eBook platform. While the standard eBook format in the industry is ePub, Amazon’s Kindle doesn’t support it. Neither does iBooks from Apple. However a new eBook start up has an interesting model for delivering eBooks. BookShout’s app allows Kindle and Nook users to import previously purchased eBooks not from Amazon or Barnes & Noble but direct from the publisher after their previous purchase is verified. This same model could possibly be applied to purchased print books.
This method of bundling would be great for bookshops. Imagine if a bookshop could provide, with any print book they sold (where applicable), a copy of the eBook. The print book purchase is verified with the publisher and the publisher sends the customer the eBook in the format they specify (Kindle, iBook, ePub). This would effectively tear down Amazon and Apple’s walled garden. It would also allow the print book to be the definitive format and bookshops the ability to service any and all readers. It could even be a way for readers to digitize their existing libraries.