I got an email in my box tonight letting me know that BitLit has just added the ability to claim discounts on audiobooks based on owning the print edition to its Shelfie app. Publishers Weekly has more details. The app already allowed owners of some paper books to claim discounted e-books, by writing your their on the copyright page and sending a photo in to prove ownership. The e-mail notice says Shelfie added “over 20,000 best-selling audiobooks” in the addition.
Publishers Weekly notes that about 1,200 publishers have signed on with Shelfie, including Big Five members HarperCollins and Macmillan. Shelfie claims to be able to work with “10% to 20% of the titles on a consumer’s book shelf.” This seems fairly reasonable to me—I have 239 books Shelfied so far, and it offers me e-books for 23 of them. And now in the current version of the Shelfie app, it offers me the ability to purchase eight audiobooks.
Interestingly enough, three of the e-books it offers me and three of the audiobooks are listed as “free,” given that they’re titles in the public domain. (It will let me download the public-domain e-books right away, but still wants me to photograph the book to download the audiobook.)
This is a pretty big step forward for Shelfie. It’s easy to see why publishers might offer you a discount on the e-book for owning the print book, given that it’s effectively extra money for them—they didn’t have to pay anything extra to create the e-book, and you’ve already paid them once for the content given that you own the paper book. (Or, at least, someone already paid them once for the content, if you bought it used.) But the audiobook brings extra costs into the equation—paying the actor to read the book, and the recording facility and staff to produce it.
But on the other hand, making the audiobook available cheaply if you buy another edition isn’t exactly new, either, since Amazon does that already (to some authors’ and audiobook producers’ chagrin). Perhaps the publishers figured that if Amazon was doing it already, it couldn’t hurt them to offer it via an alternate channel. (And maybe it even helps them compete with Amazon; who knows?)
Regardless, the deals it offers on the audiobooks seem pretty reasonable, tending to be more than 50% off their listed prices. None of them appeals to me enough to purchase at this point, though.
Publishers Weekly also notes that Shelfie has added a recommendation engine to its app, intended to work as an alternative to “people who bought this also bought” recommendations. The engine would use its knowledge of what books people have on their shelves in order to recommend the books from one person’s shelf to other people who also own some of the same books—not unlike the collaborative filtering sites like Alexandria Digital Literature have done. This is a clever way to leverage the service’s existing information in a new way, I’ll give them that.
Or, at least, I would give them that, if I could find the actual recommendations. I’ve been all through the Shelfie app on my phone and haven’t found a trace of anything that wants to offer me recommendations based on the other titles in my bookshelf. Maybe I’m just not looking in the right place? I don’t know—but it seems that if they’re wanting to use a recommender to drive more sales, they should at least make the recommender easy to find.
BitLit has been in the news a lot lately, it seems. Just a week ago, Paul wrote about the company adding scientific publisher Springer to its list of partners. One of these days, I’m going to have to get around to buying a Shelfie title and seeing how it works. I never actually have, even after getting them to straighten out a cover confusion issue on the one title I owned that they offered when I first tried the service. Now that they offer a lot more titles I own, including a couple I rather like, I’ll have to give it a shot.