Elsevier offers DRM-free ebook-bundling through BitLit

Elsevier offers DRM-free ebook-bundling through BitLit

Elsevier has become the latest publisher to partner with Vancouver start-up BitLit to offer discounted ebook editions of a part of its book catalog.

"And one of the exciting things is that Elsevier is going DRM-free on the bundling," BitLit co-founder Peter Hudson (pictured) tells The Bookseller. "Not even watermarking. So Elsevier becomes one of the big three technical publishers we have on board," he says, the other two being O'Reilly Media and Packt Publishing. "They've all gone DRM-free."

BitLit's fast-growing roster of ebook-bundling partners now is some 200 publishers deep. Each participating publisher provides to BitLit all or part of its catalog, sets the prices on each ebook edition of a print book, and chooses what, if any, digital rights management (DRM) software features it wants.

The reader-consumer knows BitLit, launched in January, as an app. A reader can claim the ebook edition of a print book that he or she owns by writing his or her name (in ink) on the copyright page of the print book and snapping a picture of it using a smartphone. BitLit's vision technology then uses the that image to verify ownership and fulfill the customer's order of the ebook under whatever terms the publisher has selected.

Elsevier's new partnership means that the company is offering some 5,000 of its science and technology ebooks to BitLit users who have previously bought print editions of those titles. No receipt or point-of-sale record is needed.

Asked for an example, Hudson chooses the Elsevier title Advanced Mathematical Tools for Control Engineers, Volume 1 (2008, Alexander Poznyak). The print edition, he says, is listing at around $400, and the ebook price, as a standalone buy, is $255. The bundled ebook through BitLit, he says, is $89.99.

While we may not all be control engineers, Hudson does have an engineering background, with Aquatic Informatics and Westinghouse, and this gives him special appreciation for the technical-manual niche in bundling. "If I'm at a mine site in Alaska or on a river doing hydrology somewhere," he says, "I'm never going to lug along a 1200- or 1,800-page engineering manual. But I will have my phone with me, I guarantee that. So if I need to have a reference to a calculation, $89 is pretty cheap way to be sure I always have that engineering manual with me."

In a statement provided to the media, Elsevier Science and Technology Books m.d. Suzanne BeDell said, "We like to test new methods of publishing and distribution models to continually improve what we deliver to customers. Working with BitLit is another great example of doing just this."

The Elsevier partnership represents a substantial expansion in BitLit's inventory of some 40,000 titles available for ebook bundling for print owners. BitLit estimates this initial selection of ebooks to comprise between a quarter and a third of Elsevier's technically oriented book offerings. The O'Reilly Media and Packt partnerships of roughly 2,000 titles each reflect those publishers' entire libraries, Hudson says.

BitLit's provision of a discounted (or free, in some cases) ebook edition of a technical manual or science book is part of a developing area in the growing exploration of print-and-ebook bundling. New context has been added this month in related bundling news.

  • In one instance, Barnes & Noble is reported to have launched what Publishers Lunch describes as "an extensive holiday bundling promotion under the banner "Sync Up," letting in-store customers add an ebook version of eligible titles for $4.99 when purchasing the print editions."
  • In another, The Bookseller's Joshua Farrington reports that HarperCollins Australia and Kobo "have teamed up with two Australian booksellers to sell print and digital titles bundled together."

As reported in July at The FutureBook, BitLit has been conducting a pilot programme with HarperCollins (US) on a limited number of titles including Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, Jeaniene Frost's Halfway to the Grave, Kim Harrison's Black Magic Sanction, Gregory Maguire's Wicked, Jack Canfield's The Success Principles, and Andrew Gross' 15 Seconds.

We have more on BitLit today at The FutureBook, including a look at its new "shelfie" process of scanning users' bookshelves for potential ebook bundling, and on the growing understanding of post-print-sale bundling as a means publishers can use to gather once-lost data on their consumers.