Waterstones in the UK is doing more to explore the intersection of the physical and the digital, as well as capitalizing on its high-profile relationship with Amazon, by running two limited edition Kindle cases from star author and Alzheimer’s sufferer Terry Pratchett , including a special signed edition with all its sales profits going to Alzheimer’s Research UK.

The signed edition comes in a run of only 150 numbered copies, each at £100 ($156). “The linen cover featuring Josh Kirby’s artwork from the Discworld novel Mort, originally published in 1987, has genuine leather lining and trimming, with Sir Terry’s signature mounted on a leather plaque inside.” There will also be a cheaper unsigned Terry Pratchett Special Edition Discworld cover for £29.99 ($46.70) with Josh Kirby artwork from the first edition of “Eric.”

You wonder who the next author or charity to follow this trend could be. Literary or cultural foundations like Scotland’s Edwin Morgan Foundation could be obvious beneficiaries, as could personal causes for figures like lain Banks. And if you want any digital goods to go with the physical cover, it should be the easiest thing in the world for Amazon or Waterstones to supplement the covers with special edition wallpapers, Kindle account tokens, free extra content, or digital signatures courtesy of the dozen or so digital signing platforms.

Is impermanence or obsolescence a worry? Well, it hasn’t slowed the billion-dollar iPad accessory industry down, and will be even less of an issue if your limited edition comes in a standardized form factor like 7 or 10 inches. Besides, in the case of the Pratchett Mort signed edition cover, you could presumably get the leather plaque removed and remounted in a different cover if you needed to change devices. So the Pratchett fan is future proofed.

Promotions like this also won’t be doing Waterstones’ positioning in the UK market any harm, where it seems to be aiming at a status of high-end quality e-reader purveyor, while WHSmith goes after the naff end of the UK high street with its Kobo range. (Though many would argue that the color Kobo devices represent better quality and value for money than the equivalent Kindle Fires after the recent spate of discounts.)

Waterstones’ Kindle sales displays put a lot of emphasis on the cases, chargers, and other lifestyle accessories aspects of the Kindle ecosystem, all in warm sophisticated-looking shelving. Indeed, all the comfortably reassuring accessories almost get more emphasis than the devices themselves. This choice of emphasis may help slide e-readers under customers’ warning radar and win them acceptance among Britain’s conservative book-buying public.


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