Ebook Loyalty Programs: Rocket Science or Smart Business?

Emily Gatlin

Staff Writer

Emily Gatlin is a former independent bookstore manager turned freelance writer. Follow her antics on Twitter: @emilygatlin

Hold the phone. A publisher has finally stepped up to the plate.

University Press of Kentucky announced this week that it now offers a free ebook loyalty program.

The first of its kind, this program allows anyone who has purchased a print copy of any of our title that is available as an ebook to receive a free copy of that file. With the digital market growing rapidly, this program gives customers the flexibility to purchase the print version of a book without worrying about the added cost of an ebook.

To participate in this program, customers simply need to submit a digital photo of themselves with the book and can expect to receive an ebook file within 7–10 business days. Amy Harris, Director of Marketing and Sales at the University Press of Kentucky, explained. “With our new ebook program, I want our customers to know that we’re constantly looking out for their best interests and exploring new ways to serve them.” Photos can be submitted to

What a novel idea! If only more publishers would get on board.

I spoke with Mack McCormick, Publicity Manager for University Press of Kentucky. I wanted to know one thing: “How much more does the company have to spend to offer free ebooks with the purchase of a print copy?”

“We do have a small cost per ebook to fulfill the requests. It’s an expense, but it’s one we’ve budgeted for, and it’s not dissimilar to other promotional programs we’ve done in the past. When we launched Bob Edward’s memoir, we arranged for the ebooks to be available free for a week before the print edition hit the bookshelves.That involved partnering with many different vendors, which made it extremely complicated, but it was extremely effective in getting the word out about the book, which was the goal.”

So basically, it’s a small cost to the publisher with exponential benefits, which is what we’ve been screaming all along. Now, university presses need to do everything they can to stay afloat. They publish worthy regional books as well as gems with national appeal (remember the Autobiography of Mark Twain: Volume 1 a few years ago published by University of California Press? Yes, that monster with the dynamite ability to give you super arms was published by a UPress). But why on EARTH can’t the Big Six figure this one out?

It’s not rocket science. It’s just smart business.


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