Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
With the digitization of music, books, and other intangible forms of entertainment, where does one draw the line in gifting these items? I know that other than my mother, the gift of the CD has all but gone out the window, but have books crossed to the dark side as well?
It is priceless for me to see a loved one uncover my carefully wrapped block of a coveted book, weighing the heft, smoothing their hand over the cover. But not all people share the need for such a romanticized process, and opt to stuff a gift card into an envelope instead. They might as well say, “Off you go! Enjoy your soulless trip to the web to download your items…” I must accept, however, that comfort and ease are winning the war over experiential joy.
According to a Business Wire press release on Monday, the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts that “over 80 percent of shoppers will purchase at least one gift card in 2012.” As reported in a July Publishers Weekly article, the Bowker PubTrack consumer survey found that 14 percent of books are given as gifts annually.
That same PW article highlighted Livrada, a start-up making ebook gift cards available in Target stores. They offer the physical card for a specific title, and the recipient enters a code on Livrada’s Web site to redeem. They are then redirected to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or other distribution channels. Lastly, the ebook is delivered wirelessly to the customer’s ereader via the respective platform’s process. According to Livrada’s website, they accommodate Kobo ereaders, the nook, and Kindles. (Which is a little awkward, since Target doesn’t carry Kindles anymore…)
Here’s a thought: Wouldn’t it be easier to, I don’t know, buy the book itself? Or, for the more fickle gift giver, a Barnes & Noble or Amazon gift card? From a user standpoint, the retailer gift card allows the recipient flexibility in case they don’t want that particular book, or if they end up getting the same book twice. From a business standpoint for distributors, they wouldn’t have to pay affiliate fees to Livrada for referrals. Livrada’s goal of making an ebook gift card more “physical” than the typical email notification is a noble one, and it is definitely useful for gifters unsure what ereaders their giftee 0wns.
I’m all for going the easy route for certain loved ones who politely tolerate my ill-informed gift choices. By furnishing them with a shiny gift card, they can get what they actually want. But if you know your best friend is dying to add Stephen King’s latest book to her collection, for the love of Cujo, just get her the book.