One of the more common customer complaints over the years has to do with the cost of buying a revised edition of a computer book. Readers sometimes note that the changes from one edition to the next are relatively minor. They want to know why they have to pay full price for the next edition when it contains much of the same information as the current edition.
There’s never been a simple solution for this problem. Publishers could take a page out of the software business and offer discounted upgrades to registered users. That’s probably never happened up to now because of:
- The processing costs involved, especially when weighed against the net price if the customer’s “upgrade” discount is fairly deep,
- The publisher risks alienating the bookstores and other channel partners by taking the next transaction direct to the customer, cutting out the retailer, and
- It’s hard to say how many customers would even consider this as a viable option.
Rather than working towards a solution with a printed book, should an electronic upgrade product be considered? If you could get a PDF of the next edition for $5 or $10, vs. the original printed book price of $30 or $40, would you consider this alternative? What if that PDF included revision marks to show what’s new in the revised edition? What if the “upgrade” featured a second PDF file that highlighted only those chapters/elements that have changed? That way you could quickly scan through this smaller file to quickly get up-to-speed on the differences between the two editions. I could see where this might work in some cases, but it’s far from a perfect solution.
On a related note, Syngress has experimented a bit in this area with their “1 Year Upgrade/Buyer Protection Plan”. This is purely an online solution, but one that they’ve been playing up on covers for a few years. I don’t hear much buzz about this and you generally don’t even see customers refer to it in online reviews.
Is this really less of a problem than it’s perceived to be?