E-books as gifts: How instant delivery may actually be hampering sales

02Dec10

As more and more people start using e-book readers like the Kindle and Nook, the practice of giving e-books as holiday gifts will probably become quite common. In fact, I purchased my first e-book gifts a few days ago. Overall, the process worked smoothly, though I was left wishing for one thing: the ability to delay the delivery of the e-books until a later date.

Normally, instant delivery of e-books is a great thing. You pick out a book, purchase it, and you can start reading it a few minutes later. But when it comes to gifts, instant gratification can be a problem. Aside from those people who are shopping at the last minute, most gift givers want the gift to remain a secret until the day that the recipient would normally be opening their presents. There’s nothing to “open” with an e-book gift, so the logical alternative is to just delay the transmission until a specific date.

Aligning e-book gifts with the normal cycle of gift giving and receiving could be done in several ways. The purchasing process for e-book gifts could let the user choose a future date for delivery of the book. Or, it could allow the notice to be delivered right away, but prevent the recipient from seeing the name of the book and reading it until that date has arrived. Either way, delayed delivery would mimic how people already buy and send gifts today, and make the whole process more appealing. Otherwise, those who are turned off by the all-or-nothing tradeoff of instant delivery will revert to traditional gift giving options, and e-book gifts will have a tougher time gaining mainstream acceptance.



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