Dear Tim

The other night, I sent an e-mail to Tim O'Reilly requesting that they expand their Safari service to offer full access to titles I've purchased the physical media for. Click the 'more' link for the full text. I think it's a great idea, don't you?

Hi Tim,

I'm a Safari customer. And I'm very pleased with the service. But I have a suggestion that I think will vastly improve it AND generate even more revenue for you. Got your attention? Ok, here goes.

I've bought a number of O'Reilly books over the years (dozens!) and they have a lot of value to me. In fact, I've personally bought them-- not my employer. But most of them sit at home and while I can always commute them back and forth to the office, it's cumbersome. With a service like Safari, I've been wondering... why can't I just read them online? Of course, I could use my Safari points and subscribe to books I already own, but that doesn't really seem fair since I already have bought the book.

Here's what I propose: if I can show proof of purchase for the O'Reilly books I own, I should be able to access them through Safari without that affecting my subscription points.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering-- how does this benefit me? Well, for one, you can offer this feature to anyone that's ever bought an O'Reilly book-- but in order to take advantage, they'd have to subscribe to Safari. Meaning, they would need at least a 5-point subscription ($9.99 a month, right?) in order to read their purchased books online. You'd have a great campaign vehicle for promoting Safari! Professionals would come running. And what is it costing you? Some bandwidth mainly-- that's all. In return you get-- at the very least-- $10 a month from people that are reading books they've already paid for! They would also be exposed to other quality O'Reilly titles they may want to purchase in the future.

Here's the other half of the coin-- allow people to purchase online versions of books. Basically, you could offer a $40 book for $25 or so-- cutting the cost of materials, shipping, etc. for yourself and giving the buyer permanent access to the book they've purchased. So, in addition to your 'Buy Print Version' links, you could offer a 'Buy Online Version' option! I know I'd use that. Again, purchased books should be accessible through Safari without it affecting subscription points.

As for proof of purchase for books a user already owns, they could mail in the UPC barcode portion of their books (cutting out the barcode portion itself from the real book). The front cover is also an option, but I know I would be hard-pressed to tear off the front covers of my O'Reilly books.

Please consider this as a possible direction for Safari-- I think it would really improve and expand your service offering.

Thank you,
Brad Choate
http://www.bradchoate.com/

I got the following reply from customer service:

Thank you for the suggestion. You clearly put a lot of time into this, and presented us with a very well laid out set of arguments to support your position. We are going to present this suggestion to our development team. The development team will consider whether this is a viable option with our current software. We appreciate the feedback, and this idea will be considered for a future software version of Safari. If you have any further questions, please contact customer support at: customer-service@safaribooksonline.com.

Sure, that may just be a fluff response, but I hope not. If you like the idea, I encourage you send my e-mail to them in your name (or one of your own if you'd prefer) to add weight to the idea.

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2 Comments

tyler said:

seems like a reasonable request to me. i cart 3 or 4 books to work everyday, so this would be a nice benefit for me.

Kenneth said:

Nice concept, I too have struggled with too many books, and justifying a continuous subscription to Safari. I like the digital library you recommend. I have another idea on hardcopies you might like:

Any single book can be selected as a Super Selection and after it is a Super Selection for 3 months, it is converted into a hardcopy. (drop shipped to your address)

Books accrue Super Selection points continuously, and there is no penalty for switching a Super Selection at 89 days to a different book.

So for the cost of printing and shipping at most four books a year, O'Reilly entices the reader to maintain a longterm subscription, with the benefit of knowing they'll recieve a hardcopy as a bonus every 90 days...Perhaps this option would best be offered at the $20 a month and above level. Of course someone familiar with the economics would be able to select the best pricing point. I know as a consumer, that I would consider a valuable incentive.

This would actually be nice for, subsequent editions, where you want a refresh on a hardcopy you already bought...

The marketing department would be able to see what books are considered long term value. Perhaps the classics in their fields.

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