HarperCollins is working on a “clearer consumer proposition” for bundling e-books and print titles before further rolling out the offer it recently trialled at bookshop chain Foyles.
The publisher has told The Bookseller it believes bundling e-books with print books could become “a much more scalable idea with broad appeal” but only after it has worked further on “a simpler mechanic” for delivering it.
HarperCollins teamed up with Foyles to offer customers the opportunity to buy a selection of eight hardback titles and their e-book versions in an “e-book bundle”. The offer ran from 31st October 2013 until January 2014.
Customers had to register on the Foyles website, after they had bought one of the selected titles and downloaded an app. If it was their first e-book download, they had to launch the app and enter an e-book voucher code in order to download it.
Wendy Neale, HarperCollins’ digital sales director, said: “This was clearly a slightly complicated process for customers, with some limitations about which e-reading devices it could be used on. One of our major findings was that we need to develop a clearer consumer proposition with a simpler mechanic for delivering it, so we’re working on that now.
“We’re looking at possibly targeting specific genres, for example sci-fi fans can traditionally see the value in enhanced products. But we really believe that once we’ve got these things sorted, there is a real demand for this kind of bundle, and then it becomes a much more scalable idea with broad appeal.”
HarperCollins said because the trial was small and controlled it was difficult to make a judgement on its effect on sales of the titles. However, the company said Foyles reported certain titles “over indexed” in stores where they were given particular focus, for example Foyles Bristol outperformed the other stores on e-book bundle title The Demon Dentist by David Walliams.
Neale said: “This was an exciting experiment for us and Foyles. We were trying something new to not only generate sales, but also to provide insight. It was a chance to trial something to see what worked and just as importantly what didn’t work, in order to give us the knowledge to develop and refine the proposition to ensure even greater success next time.”
Jasper Sutcliffe, head of buying at Foyles, said it was “pleased” with the trial. “An uplift in sales over the Christmas period suggest that the bundles are attractive as gifts,” he said. “We learnt, however, that customers were particularly price-conscious, with sales increasing when the price of the bundle was no higher than that of the physical book. This suggests that the primary audiences for hardbacks and for e-books are not the same.”
Sutcliffe agreed that the process of claiming the e-book needed to be streamlined. “All in all, it was a worthwhile experiment, and we would certainly be open to discussing further bundling schemes that take these lessons on board,” he said.