Bundled Up!

When it comes to books, I’ll always, always prefer owning physical/print versions over digital copies. There’s nothing better than having a book in your hands, turning pages, writing on margins, and underlining and commenting on specific paragraphs and passages. I also don’t have to worry about battery life, file compatibility, or proprietary formats.

(This funny IKEA ad basically highlights what we love about printed material. Amazing. Nice Apple jab, too.)

But I also buy, download and read e-books; and I’ve obviously gotten rid of the “strictly print” stance that I had back in 2010. Took me a while to get to this point, though.

At first, I’d get and read whatever title I wanted, even if that title was locally available. For me, it was all about the lower prices and convenience. Eventually, I saw for myself the downsides of having e-books.

The biggest one is the implementation of digital rights management (DRM) and proprietary tech. Obviously, I can’t transfer or export e-books I bought from Amazon to other platforms and apps. (Kobo’s more lenient in this aspect.) This means I have at least three apps on my mobile devices just for e-books (Amazon, Kobo and Bluefire Reader  four if I actually used iBooks); and another one on my laptop to serve as a general library, and convert purchased DRM-ed titles (Calibre).

Here’s another huge downside of going for e-books on specific platforms: you don’t really own “your” e-books. Instead, you become a licensee. You pay for the privilege of reading that e-book on any device that has the proprietary app installed. You can’t pass on your e-books when you pass away, or lend it to others. This rule also applies for users of e-book subscription services like Oyster and Scribd.

Considering that I plan to bequeath my entire library to my future heir(s), this was (is?) my reaction to that no-ownership rule:


So, while I can’t quite quit e-books, I’ve added new rules for myself:

  • Get my stash from other places — preferably online retailers that don’t put DRM on their books and stories, and those that enable me to legally own what I paid good money for.
  • If I really have to put up with DRM and closed platforms, it should be for titles that aren’t available in the Philippines, and won’t be available here (or from any other retailer) for the foreseeable future.
  • If these alternative sources support writers’/creatives’ organizations and charities, then I’m all for it.

Thankfully, I found several sources that meet most or all of my new criteria. Today I’m focusing on websites that do product bundling for e-books — much like what I do with the reviews here on The Reading Spree, except for the selling part.

You know how this works, right? You see this being done at bookstores and bargain bins, but this concept is now being applied to the e-book trade as well. So far, I know of two websites that use bundling to move digital products, allow customers to determine how much they’ll pay for every bundle, and properly support the book authors and charitable organizations.

The first one is Humble Bundle, which began with indie game titles, but quickly expanded to e-books, mobile games, audiobooks, music, and even videos and recordings from notable stand-up comedians.

Humble Bundle-2000w

For digital books, Humble Bundle has already done several collections for novels, comics and graphic novels. It’s currently running the Humble Star Trek Bundle. Check it out!

Humble Bundle
Screenshot of the Humble Books Bundle page.

What I love about Humble Bundle is that it regularly offers a great selection of e-books and graphic novels for reasonable prices, and even adds more titles at a later date without touching the price cap. So for set prices, you get a haul of e-books from various authors or a single publishing house.

Through their bundles, I’ve gotten digital copies of books from authors I like, e.g., Neil Gaiman, Wil Wheaton, and Cory Doctorow. I also learned about other authors (like Cherie Priest and Lois McMaster Bujold); and titles/genres I otherwise wouldn’t have discovered on my own (Saga, Chew, East of West). Publishers that don’t do DRM, like Image Comics and IDW, have done special bundles with Humble Bundle — in fact, IDW’s involved in the current bundle.

I also like the list of groups and charities supported by Humble Bundle’s bundles. A short list: the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and The Hero Initiative. Beyond the book bundles, it has supported groups like Doctors Without Borders, Child’s Play, and Worldreader.

Another upside is that you get your reading material in different formats. I can get my books and comics in PDF (HD), PDF, EPUB, .cbr and .cbz; and download them through direct links or torrents. I can also load them onto my reader of choice, which saves me from that horrible app-specific reader problem I mentioned earlier.

In short, the bundles are worth paying full price for. Wanna try out or learn more about Humble Bundle? Go to the website; read the blog; or visit its FacebookTwitter and Google+ pages.

The second website that sells books by bundle is the younger StoryBundle. Unlike Humble Bundle, which casts a wide net in terms of digital products, StoryBundle offers just e-books and video games (for now?).

Also, based on its FAQ page, StoryBundle doesn’t bring back past bundles or parts of it, or add to bundles during the sale period.

Screenshot of the main page.

However, the service has all the things I like: a good DRM-free indie book selection, publsher- and genre-specific material, bonus books, and support for charitable institutions. The current collection, The Dark Fantasy Bundle, supports the ALS Association — yup, the organization supported by people doing the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Not into dark fantasy, so I’m passing on this bundle. Past bundles also got into steampunk, cosmic sci-fi, fantasy, horror, YA, international crime, and even an unofficial Doctor Who bundle; so wait around and maybe your preferred type of fiction would be featured. If you get impatient, you can also make suggestions for future bundles.

One more thing. Writers and self-publishers, heads up: StoryBundle can also accept submissions!

Drop them a line for submissions or suggestions here. Visit the StoryBundle website, or its Facebook/Twitter/Google+ pages for more info.

Out of curiosity… is there a similar e-book bundle service here in the Philippines, with support for local establishments, writers’ groups and charities? Lemme know!

Will post more legit e-book sources next week.

Also: Sponsored post? Nah.