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Digital Bundles and Anthology Splicing: New ways to deliver old content

In updating the coming soon catalog, I came across references to several publishers selling digital bundles. Kensington has Cynthia Eden’s novels, Eternal Flame, Eternal Hunter, and I’ll Be Slaying You in the Eternal Flame Bundle. Kensington has priced these at $28.00 for the three of them but Amazon has them discounted to $15.94.

Screenshot Cynthia Eden bundle

Penguin has three bundles that I found including the Paranormal Holiday Anthology Trio, a collection of paranormal anthologies of holidays past: An Enchanted Season, The Magical Christmas Cat, and Hot for the Holidays. The price Penguin set for these three is $26.99. There is no discount by Amazon because it is one of the “Agency” priced books.

Harlequin first introduced bundles with its series books. It used to sell Harlequin Presents, Harlequin Blaze in monthly bundles. Apparently at least the HP bundle has ceased. It currently bundled titles like Gena Showalter’s The Darkest Fire, The Darkest Night, The Darkest Kiss and The Darkest Pleasure in Lords of the Underworld Bundle. Harlequin priced the collection at $18.95, probably the best of the bundle pricing I have seen and Amazon has discounted it to $9.99. There are also bundles such as Marriage and Babies Bundle and Bachelors of Bear Creek Bundle (and others like it).

HarperCollins will be doing bundles beginning at the end of December.

I’m unsure what I think of bundles. I like the idea of bundles but for me, the idea of a bundle is that you get more for less. I.e., you are getting a deal when you buy a bundle. I’m not sure if paying $25.00 or more for three books is quite a deal. I know for the holiday anthology by Berkley the books were originally released were trade paperbacks thus at $26.99, it probably is deal but for some reason the priciness of the collection doesn’t scream “deal” to me.

There is a digital drawback for bundles. When I bought the old Harlequin bundles, instead of getting three individual files for each book, you get one huge digital file containing the three books. This makes organizing the books more difficult and when reading, you can’t tell how far you are in a book given that the digital reader treats the one file as one book instead of three different books. I wish that you could get bundle pricing with individual book files instead of an omnibus of books.

I’m not sure what a good bundle pricing is but I like the $9.99 price point for three books, particularly as they are backlist titles and not new titles. I think it is interesting that publishers are experimenting with different packaging of digital titles. I would like to see cutting up anthology titles.

Carina Press has three holiday anthology collections: His for the Holidays, Winter Wishes, and Naughty and Nice. His for the Holidays and Naughty and Nice are priced at $9.99 and contain four stories each. Each story, however, can be purchased separately. (I particularly liked Shannon Stacey’s Holiday Sparks). I recently reviewed The Four Play collection containing a story by Maya Banks and one by Shayla Black. I enjoyed the Maya Banks contribution and wished that could have been purchased separately.

In pirate land, bundles and cutting up of anthologies have long been a staple of delivery of digital content. I’m curious to see what other readers want in terms of digital delivery. Did you like the Harlequin Blogger Bundles? Do you like bundling in general? What about the price point? Would you like to be able to purchase the collections separately? What else do you want publishers to be offering you in terms of digital content?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

29 Comments

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  2. Statch
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 07:56:50

    I avoid bundles because I find I tend not to read them. With digital bundles, it feels like I need to read all of the books at the same time, or I’ll forget about the ones I didn’t read. I would prefer to be able to split up the books. (I like the idea of splitting up anthologies too.)

    Also, I often find that I already have one book from the bundle. It’s maddening to really want two of the three books in the bundle, and already have the third.

    I’m afraid the bundle is associated in my mind with heavy discounts, too. It’s unlikely that I’d want all the books in the bundle equally as much, so the main reason for buying a bundle is price.

    Interesting that the publishers who use the Agency pricing model are really sticking to their guns this holiday season. I mean, they could discount their own books, right? I was hoping to see some sales on those books.

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  3. Carolyn
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 08:35:58

    I bought the Lady Julia Grey bundle some time ago for $9.99 at Amazon and never regretted it. All three books got read too. :-) This in turn led me to buy the newest release in the series, which to my mind is one of the reasons to bundle.

    I wouldn’t pay the prices you’ve listed. I’d buy the books one at a time, at my convenience, if I really wanted them.

    And Penquin at least, adds tax, which for $45 is a real consideration. It’s gotten to where I check publishers now, something I never did before.

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  4. Jane
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 08:43:36

    @Carolyn & @Statch: I think that the pricing on the digital bundles presumes that you really really want those books. That pricing isn’t impulse purchase pricing.

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  5. bettie
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 09:21:20

    Bundles are a great way to get an author’s backlist, and to read a series. I’ve purchased a few from the Sony reader store and enjoyed them. However, the discount was negligible, so I only purchased authors I knew. It seems like bundles would be a great way to get new readers hooked on a series, and a real discount would be just the thing to break past the barrier of spending money on the unknown.

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  6. Brian
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 09:50:03

    Bundles can be a great way to receive an introduction to a new author. The main problems I have with current bundles (talking digital here, I don’t do paper anymore) are mentioned above… Price, it seems like many bundles are just the price of the individual books added together (or close to it) and the big file problem. Hate it and it usually makes me avoid a digital bundle all together which is unfortunate as it’d be a good way to hook me into buying more of the authors backlist provided I enjoyed the “starter bundle”.

    Sell me a bundle similar to Webscriptions and now we’re talking. A bunch of books for a good price and you get individual files (not to mention they aren’t infected with DRM and you get many formats, but the big pubs aren’t likely to do that anytime soon).

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  7. SarahT
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 09:55:40

    I like the idea of bundles (getting a bunch of books in one go for a decent price) but I wish they were delivered as separate files, or at least had something which would make identifying the start and end points of the various books easier.

    Unless bundles are an unbeatable price, I avoid them.

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  8. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 10:41:09

    @SarahT:
    I’m sitting here thinking about how a publisher would go about bundling on a place like Amazon without resorting to separate files and…I just don’t know how it could be done. I mean, I can control my own store (where a bunch of files are delivered in a zipped file), but… I can’t think of how you’d do it in a store where you can only upload one (non-zipped) file per title.

    Which is unfortunate, because come April I have reason to want to deliver a bundle like this. Really want. Bad.

    *wanders off to ask Amazon about this*

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  9. Suze
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 12:07:17

    I bought an HP bundle not long after getting my Sony 505. I’ve made it through a quarter or so of the first story. I really bought it for just one of the books included (and figured I’d get the rest too, because it was a good deal), but there’s no way to navigate to that book, so it just sits there.

    It would be WAY better to get individual files, but if that’s not do-able, then the first or second page of the bundle should be a table of contents with the page number for the start of each book, so that you could just punch in the page number and go directly there. I suppose I could guess and flip through the books that way, but I’m not going to.

    If I got a bundle of a series, I’d probably read them through in order (assuming they came that way) the first time, but for re-reads, I’d still want to be able to easily navigate to a particular book.

    In short, I haven’t bought any other bundles.

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  10. Keishon
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 12:30:03

    I don’t buy Bundles because of cost or because of the lack of titles I want or prefer in the bundle. So, I pay no attention to them.

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  11. Keishon
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 12:38:55

    Additionally, I agree with Sarah, I prefer separate files too if I were to purchase a bundle at a decent price but they don’t.

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  12. KarLynP
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 12:45:37

    I love the concept of bundles, but only if there is a good price incentive. Since moving to digital format a few months ago, I’d love to pick up many of my old favorite series in digital format. But the agency price model wont sell me at all. I seriously doubt those publisher would be successful selling bundles unless they offer an incentive to buy in bulk. Their loss.

    BTW, I agree that ‘Holiday Sparks’ by Shannon Stacey (a story in the ‘Naughty and Nice’ anthology) was particularly good and stood out from the rest of the stories. I got an ARC copy of N&N and read it last week. I too recommend it.

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  13. Tasha
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 14:02:57

    I’m going to come right out and say it: when it comes to backlist, the ebooks aren’t competing with new mass market paperbacks, they’re competing with used bookstores. I’m not paying $9.99 for each book as part of an ebook bundle when the mm is $7.99 or, better still if it’s the first in a series I’m considering, $4.00 at the local used bookstore. For bundles to work for me, they need to cost less than if I’d bought each title separately.

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  14. TKF
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 14:20:10

    I’ve never bought a bundle, cause I usually already own one of the books. One of the things I’m really liking with eBooks lately is the broken up anthologies. Frequently, I really only want to read one of the authors/stories, and it’s great to be able to buy just that one.

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  15. Kelley
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 15:01:20

    I loved the HP bundles. To me, it was just like having a subscription where they send you that month’s books but I bought them manually. They also had a table of contents that allowed me to go to the stories I was most interested in and then read the rest when I felt like it. I have a kindle so I just bookmarked wherever I left off. It does take a little work if I want to reread a book from a bundle. Usually you or SB Sarah make a recommendation and then I go back to that month’s bundle and see if the book was included. With the similar titles and plot lines, I’m pretty sure I’d have the same problem even if I had the physical books. :-)

    My favorite bundle is the Crusie bundle that had almost all her backlist for some screaming low price I can’t recall. I go back and reread them all the time especially Charlie All Night.

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  16. Melissa G
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 15:23:58

    LOVE ebook bundles to pick up backlist and try an author I haven’t before. When I decided to give Gena Showalter a try a couple of years ago, I purchased the Lords bundle because it was an exceptional deal for the first four in the series –for a few bucks more, I got four books I was reasonably certain I’d read. That bundle hooked me so bad, I’ve now purchased her entire backlist and all new releases are auto-buy for me.

    I agree with earlier posters that it’s dependent upon price. I have zero interest in a bundle if it’s virtually the same price as individual books. It’s NOT incentive to spend a little bit more on an author I’m not sure about. I don’t mind them all in one file, so long as there’s a table of contents I can use to jump to each story.

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  17. peggy h
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 15:27:51

    My very first Kindle ebook purchase was a bundle. I’d read Deanna Raybourn’s Silent in the Grave (free ebook from Mills & Boon), enjoyed it so much I was thrilled to buy the first three books bundled for 9.99. I’ve read all three books, and enjoyed them enough to get the newest one.

    Recently, Zoe Archer’s Rebel was a free Kindle ebook for a limited period of time. I enjoyed what I read (I didn’t even finish it yet) so when I learned that Amazon had a 9.99 bundle of all four Blades of the Roses books, I didn’t hesitate to get that too.

    These are my only bundles. I am not interested in bundles that include different authors, and definitely not something like a subscription to all HPs every month. My two bundle purchases have been related books where I’d already tried out a book.

    Right now, I’m hoping the Hunger Games books will be bundled! I keep checking, even if there’s no reason to believe this will be offered–haha!

    The two bundles I’ve bought have been $9.99 each. I may be willing to pay more, and obviously it would depend on the number of books included, but I don’t think I’d go as high as some of the prices quoted above (such as over $25 for 3 books).

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  18. Ammarylis
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 18:29:07

    Thanks for posting this, Jane! I’m getting a Kindle for Xmas. In the meantime, I’ve been doing a massive (aka obsessive) amount of research to prepare myself. One of my inquiries has been the advantages of buying bundles. After reading this post & the subsequent posts, my question has been answered!

    I like the idea of buying multiple books by one author in one go to try her out or get my hands on OOP books. I also like the rare great deals, like the above mentioned “Blades of the Roses” series for $9.99. I don’t like how the bundles are sent in one giant file, not individual ones. I also don’t like how it doesn’t seem like you save a significant amount of money buying these bundles.

    For the moment, I’ve decided to stick with individual purchases. There doesn’t seem like many advantages to going the bundle route-not to mention, there isn’t much of a selection unless you enjoy HQ.

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  19. ShellBell
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 18:39:54

    I’ve bought 5 bundles over 3-4 years. Of the 5 bundles: 1 was the first 3 Julia Grey books as 1 file (great bundle – read all of the books); 1 was 4 Christine Feehan books that came as 4 separate files zipped together (another great bundle) and the other 3 bundles were Harlequin books. For me the Harlequin bundles were the least successful – good price but the eBooks were not individual files and I bought each of the bundles specifically for 1 book contained within the bundle. I would have much preferred to have been able to buy the individual eBooks but they were’t (and still aren’t) available individually. For example, I bought one of the Smart Bitches bundles from Harlequin. It contained 4 books but I only wanted it for Fiona Brand’s Cullen’s Bride and haven’t even bothered to read the other books within the bundle.

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  20. Kaetrin
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 19:35:26

    I like being able to buy individual novellas if I don’t want the whole anthology. I’m keen to read Courtney Milan’s novella from the Heart of Christmas anthology but I already have the Mary Balogh novella (in another anthology) and I don’t really want to read the other story. If I bought the whole thing, I’d be paying full price for only 1 novella which isn’t worth it to me. Hopefully Harlequin will release the story individually one day so I can pick it up.

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  21. Marsha L
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 20:17:28

    I agree with Kelly – with the series romances it was “just like having a subscription”. I used to buy the Silhouette Desire “one-click” bundles until they stopped (?) offering them recently. One of the problems I had was finding a SD book I wanted to read but forgetting to check the release date before I bought it. I’ve ended up with duplicates that way. (I’ve been buying back-list titles as singles.)

    I still mostly read on an iPhone with the (Fictionwise) eReader app, and the first thing I do when I open a multi-story book is click the link to each story and add a bookmark on each title page. Once I finish a story, I remove the bookmark. When I revisit a bundle I can quickly tell which stories haven’t been read.

    My goal is to keep my book database up to date with what is ‘read/not read/in progress’ but… well… One of these days…

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  22. helen
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 22:41:51

    @Carolyn:
    That’s how I bought the Lady Julia Grey series as well! I saw them mentioned on a blog somewhere and found the bundle at Barnes and Nobel for my Nook. Otherwise I never would have tried this series as it is not something I would normally read, but I love them! I think it is a great marketing tool for the publishers and authors, a way to bet people to buy series they might not have, but the price point does have to be lower. I would not have bought these if they had been 20.00!
    I think the most I probably would have paid would have been 12.00.

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  23. helen
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 22:45:14

    That should be “way to get” not bet!

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  24. Niveau
    Nov 29, 2010 @ 00:55:24

    Bundles can be fun, and I agree that there should be discounts, but I’m wary of discounting them too much. $9.99 for three backlist titles could sound reasonable for me, but seeing Amazon price the four recentish Gena Showalter mass markets there just doesn’t feel sustainable. I don’t think that bundles should just be the total cover price, but I would honestly be more likely to buy it at Harlequin’s price (unless the Amazon price was a special sale, and that was mentioned there) because to me, seeing four mmps four ten dollars starts alarm bells ringing. Why would four good books be so cheap? Then again, I rarely download free ebooks because of that reasoning, but I know they’re pretty popular, so maybe it’s just me.

    On the other hand, cutting up anthologies is an idea just overflowing in win.

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  25. Sandia
    Nov 29, 2010 @ 07:15:48

    I buy bundles – but only of series books. Actually, I used to buy bundles.

    When they are priced at $9.99 for 3 or 4 books, I’ll buy them just because I feel like it is a great deal. I actually bought George RR Martin bundle for 9.99. I haven’t read it, and have owned it for as long as I’ve had my Kindle.

    I think that since Omnibus editions of series books are usually priced just barely higher than one MMPB, why shouldn’t ebook bundles be priced the same?

    I bought Zoe Archer’s bundle – because I can’t resist 3 books for 9.99 (I also got the free Kindle download but wasn’t sure what the book was about other than it was reviewed at SB – how bad of an impulse purchaser am I).

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  26. Sandia
    Nov 29, 2010 @ 07:17:54

    Also forgot to add (can we no longer edit?).

    I have no problem with bundles with no location. I go to the beginning of each title and look at the location at the beginning and just count down to know how much I have left. But the lack of page number of the Kindle had never bothered me since I didn’t see what the different between using location number and page numbers was.

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  27. Lizabeth
    Nov 29, 2010 @ 07:40:25

    The Sony Reader Store has been selling bundles and collections almost since they started. I have to admit that I prefer the separate book download to the all in one file. If in one large file, I like if there are linkable table of contents, not always provided by many other sites. I use bookmarks to determine which book to read next.

    When I was still reading anthologies, I used them as a way of discovering new authors, so I’d still continue reading them in a group. Paying $.99 or $1.99 per story annoys me unless it is an author I already love, such as Nora Roberts or Jayne Ann Krentz.

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  28. joanne
    Nov 29, 2010 @ 08:44:41

    I’m not sure if this is considered a bundle or an antho or just another good idea from the Nora Roberts team but they announced that they are coming out with a compilation of the J.D. Robb In Death novellas.

    I didn’t check to see if Amazon had it listed and/or the price.

    If I could get other author’s novellas that way (Mary Balogh comes to mind) instead of paying full book price for just the one author I want to read I would be happy, happy, happy.

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  29. Jade Tyger
    Dec 01, 2010 @ 21:30:10

    FWIW, I bought Amazon’s “Lady Julia Grey” bundle for 9.99. It includes the first three novels in the series. Deanna Raybourn was a new-to-me author, so I felt much more comfortable paying the digital price for three books (given that the TPBs are even more). I figured, if I didn’t like the series, I was really only out the price of one book for three.

    That being said, I LOVE the series, and am speeding along through the third book, now. So, I’d say that bundles are a good idea, though I’d hesitate at the agency pricing.

    The one-file omnibus editions are a bit of an irritant, but I can live with it.

    Overall, the lower priced bundles are a very smart idea, IMHO. Using myself as an example, I would have shied away from a 25.00 bundle. I would have missed out on a great author. And Amazon/MIRA would have missed out on my money.

    I’ll be buying the next book as soon as I’m finished with the bundle. I’ve become a regular reader for this series Which is what I’m sure Amazon intended. :) But they would never have gotten me in the door with an outrageously priced bundle.

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