Shelfie is moving forward with its book/e-book bundling program.

This time, it’s announced a partnership with the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When customers buy specific titles from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, one of Shelfie’s partner publishers, there, they’ll be able to snap a photo of it with the Shelfie app to download an e-book or audiobook edition of it.

The article in Publishing Perspectives about the partnership is remarkably unclear, so I emailed Shelfie co-founder and CEO Peter Hudson with an inquiry about how it works. He explained that the bundles range from free to $2.99, with the majority coming in at 99 cents or less.

They don’t pay extra at the bookstore, the bundling happens through the Shelfie app. So the process is exactly the same as it would be for a book you already have on your shelf at home. The difference is that Harvard Book Store will be stickering select titles to let buyers know that they get both the print edition and for a small incremental price the digital version as well.

So, effectively, it’s just like buying a Shelfie bundle at home; it’s just that it lets you do it right there at the store (and, undoubtedly, gets Shelfie some free publicity from Harvard Book Store customers).

It’s nice to see the state of discussion around e-book bundling moving forward, and Shelfie clearly not sitting on its laurels. This kind of progressive partnership is also what I’d expect from the Harvard Book Store, who we covered in 2012 for having an Espresso Book Machine.

As another step forward for bundling, it’s great. My only concern is that it’s a bit of a small step. It occurs to me that if Shelfie could partner with bookstores all over to offer this kind of bundling, such as getting the ABA to promote it to bookstores, it could be helpful in promoting their sales. It could be a lot more useful than the partnership they forged with Kobo to let independent bookstores sell e-books by themselves.

By and large, people don’t come to local bookstores to buy just e-books—but if they could get the e-book for a low incremental add-on price to participating print books, then why wouldn’t they want to? It’s certainly something Barnes & Noble won’t do—which would give those indie bookstores a competitive advantage and perhaps draw more shoppers away. It would even work for used bookstores, as Shelfie can’t tell and probably doesn’t care whether you bought your copy of the book new or used (as long as someone else’s name isn’t already scribbled inside it)—it just matters that you have a copy of it. (Of course, the publishers who want to push only new books might not be too happy about that.)

Shelfie has really impressed me so far with its willingness to add new features and partnerships in promotion of print and digital bundling. I may have to look into buying some e-books through them one of these days myself.


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