Bibliophiles Rejoice: BookBub Helps Readers Find the Best e-Book Deals

Bookstore readers
Stephen Yang/ Bloomberg News
There's nothing like a good bookstore. Curling up in the stacks, a pile of potential purchases surrounding you, flipping through a few pages here, a few pages there, following your interests wherever they may go. How relaxing, how enjoyable, how...1997.

Last year, e-book sales outpaced hardcovers for the first time -- a development that, not surprisingly, has paralleled the decline of brick-and-mortar booksellers. But, while the e-book revolution (and, to a greater extent, the Amazon revolution) has increased the convenience and cut the costs of book buying, it has also erased some of the pleasures that once accompanied bookstore shopping. Gone are the surprises -- the sudden discovery of a great new author or the wondrous delight of a deeply discounted book that you've always wanted.

Recreating the Bookstore...Online

A few companies have tried to imitate the joy of bookstore discovery. The goal -- helping readers to find new authors, as well as discount books -- is ultimately helpful to publishers as well as readers. After all, wondrous discoveries lead to wondrous sales. Even if those books are discounted, there still is a lot of money to be made, especially on e-books, which are much cheaper to produce and distribute than traditional "dead tree" hard copies of books.

For Kindle users -- including me -- Amazon's deals have long been the standard for the e-bookstore experience. Between their monthly specials, which spotlight 100 deeply discounted books, and their daily deals, which focus on four specials every day, a Kindle user can expect a consistent trickle of book bargains.

Other content companies, like Apple and Barnes and Noble offer similar services.

But for a real book junkie -- again, like me -- an online bookseller that only spotlights a couple hundred discounted books per month isn't nearly enough. Put in terms of the traditional bookstore experience, this would be roughly comparable to going to the "cheap deals" section of a bookstore, only to find that it consists of one shelf that is sparsely filled with bad mystery novels and self-help books.

Another Model

Josh Schanker, a Boston-based digital entrepreneur, thinks that he might have the solution. Like the DailyDeal, his company, BookBub, sends out a free daily e-mail that highlights deeply discounted books. However, unlike Amazon's service, BookBub offers bargains for users across all major reader platforms, including the iPad, the Kindle, the Sony reader and the Nook. More importantly, though, it allows users to select books across 17 different genres -- far more than the four offerings that come in each Daily Deal e-mail.

Finding books to promote is easy: publishers and independent writers pay BookBub to spotlight their publications. In fact, the difficult part is sorting through the requests: Schanker estimates that BookBub receives at least 50 submissions per day. "We have automatic filters that sort through the books based on price," he explains. "We only offer books that are discounted by 50 percent or more. Many of our books are free."

Even after sorting, there are still a lot of offers out there. BookBub's three-person editorial team researches the remaining books, reading reviews and scanning through the books themselves to get a feel for them.

For the publishers, there are several reasons for offering deep discounts. "A lot of publishers are hoping to get readers hooked on a series," Schanker explains. "The first one is free, but readers have to pay for later books." Similarly, by deeply discounting books, publishers can draw attention to lesser-known authors. "There are a lot of great authors who haven't built an audience yet," Schanker notes. "If publishers can build interest, they can sell the authors' other works."

Still other books are bestsellers that publishers temporarily discount in an attempt to drum up fresh interest in an author. Recently, for example, BookBub featured free books by Dan Brown and Jodi Picoult, both of whom have new novels coming out in 2013. "By discounting a backlist book, publishers can bring an author front and center," Schanker notes.

BookBub has found an appreciative audience: the company hit a million subscribers last month, and Schanker expects to see a lot more growth. "The larger we are, the more publishers want to work with us," he explains. And, given that there are few guides to the thousands of discounted ebooks on the market, it isn't hard to see why a million (and counting) readers are eager to work with BookBub.

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

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If you're not finding what you want try Buck Books for the best deals. Great authors and books that normally sell for $10, $20, $40 and so easy. It's a no brainer and you'll love Buck. He is cooler than the Dos Equis guy! You can actually sign up at archangelink under buck books and be on the list for the all of their offerings.

July 17 2014 at 6:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Thomas Smith

novels and other fiction are heavily discounted (70-90%) (not sci fi), but books and magazines of substance are either not e-books or minimally discounted.(5-10%)
this means portability as the only advantage; SOMETIMES!!

May 20 2014 at 10:20 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
David D. Hartman

I get emails from BookBub and eReader Cafe daily all aimed at my specific genre of interest and many free to no more than $2.99. As of this point in time I have an elibrary of about 200 books and have read probably 100 more in the past 2 years. Having access to these books on my smart phone allows me the liberty of reading for a while, instead of setting with nothing to do, or impatiently waiting in line.

May 12 2014 at 10:17 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I get 6 ebook groups emailed to me on a regular basis. All offer special deals and freebie ebooks, but in my opinion BookBub is not one of the best. Ebooks can be pricey and I read a lot and fast. I used to buy used books because even new paperback prices can add up if one is an avid reader. So far I have yet to see used ebook deals so I get freebie books to feed my need and if I like the series I will slowly buy the series, one book at a time. I have found Facebook can be a good source for groups to find ebook deals, plus several authors post to Facebook and offer deals of their own.
As for Libraries, sadly they are not always the greatest place to get books as strange as that sounds. My local library has little by way of the genres I like to read both in regular books and ebooks. What I found odd was that they are part of a network of libraries in the county and I thought with that type of network I would have more access to a greater variety of books, yet that doesn't seem to be the case. The genres I like are fairly popular, historical romance, urban fiction, vampires, werewolves, etc, sci-fi fantasy, etc. The libraries here tend to stick with books that have earned awards or are best sellers, contemporary romance, mysteries, etc. I actually own more historical romance novels than our local library does. Plus they don't have all the books in a series, many paper books have gone missing and that seems to relate to their ebooks as well. I thought their ebook selection would be much bigger than their regular book selection, but for some reason they tend to be the same.

April 30 2014 at 10:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to's comment
Solomon Grundy

I'm actually one of the people who orders eBooks for my public library. And everything you're saying is correct.
But sadly it isn't our fault. Blame the publishers on this one. Our hands are tied on what books we're allowed to purchase, how many times they can be checked out, even who can check them out. If someone lives in the city next to ours, even though they have a library card with us, they can't check out eBooks.
And the books offered are pathetic. Believe me we are most definitely not spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting our titles. We try. We really do. But its so frustrating when you look at the New York Times Bestseller list and see that only two books on the list can be purchased by a library.
And then there's the price structure. We end up paying a ridiculous amount of money for these books, they can only circulate a certain number of times, people have to wait for them to be returned before they can be checked out again, and then we have to buy them again once we run out of check outs. For another ridiculous fee.
I've been cursed out several times by people when I try to explain to them that the eBook they want is checked out. They just can't wrap their head around the fact that its not a magic file that can be sent to anyone who wants it as many times as they want it.
I love eBooks. And I want libraries to stay relevant. But something has to give with the publishers.

May 28 2014 at 12:52 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I find BookBub to be extremely frustrating to use because when you are on the site looking at "Recommended for You" there is no way to sort the list. It would be so great if you could sort by genre or price or ending soonest. Without the ability to sort the list it is just too cumbersome to actually use.

April 29 2014 at 1:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jan Dumas

I use Scribd, for the cost of one ebook $8.99, I get access to 30,000 books. I have been a member for 2 months and have already read 14 books I would have not read otherwise. Including some books I wanted to read but could not afford as an e-book or hard cover.

April 28 2014 at 6:10 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

How to save money on ebooks? -- via your local library!

April 21 2014 at 1:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to itzlaurenr's comment

... and yes, I do mean ebooks ... not just printed books.

April 21 2014 at 1:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have an Asus reader and a Nook. I also have a computer (duh) and 2 laptops. I like to buy the digital books that can be either read or listened to (for the car). I buy the hard copies (DVDs) and then transfer them to my devices....I do not buy the books or movies online who just transfer them to my computer (what if my device was stolen or crash beyond repair, I would lose everything. Versatility is the key. Yes, I love Barnes and Noble and cannot stay away from that store and it has an extensive selection......BUT, so does Costco. The public library has them for rental or purchase...often I can buy used digital books (or movies) for just a couple of dollars.....last time I went to the library...they did not charge me for the 4 (used) that I was going to purchase...small town, small shelf space. :-) Oh, here's another thing.....the library system in America is divided up into geographical areas....several states consist of an area.....even if your town has a tiny library (like mine)...their selection is in the millions.......all you have to do is ask your librarian about a book that you cannot find in your's generally available and they can get it for you. It's a good thing. :-) All this being said...I will now visit Book Bub.

April 19 2014 at 11:41 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply