E-book gift cards: How to sell an e-book at an event

When Guy Kawasaki wanted to sell digital copies of APE: How to Publish a Book at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, Enthrill made it possible with e-book gift cards.

These revolutionary cards allow publishers and authors alike to sell e-books — digital downloads — at in-person events that include book launch celebrations and speaking engagements. You simply purchase a batch of download codes from Enthrill, print them on cards — or anything else — and sell them.

“One cookbook author printed them on wooden spoons and sold them for $10 each,” says Kevin Franco, co-founder and chief executive officer of Enthrill of Calgary, Alberta.

Enthrill’s e-book delivery technology makes it possible for anyone to buy a book in its catalog, regardless of the type of device used. The company currently offers books from indies plus a wide range of recognized publishers. It also sells e-book gift cards at Walmart stores in Canada.

Cards are redeemed online.

Here’s how it works

After the publisher or author uploads the book’s cover, metadata, and ePub file to Enthrill’s “warehouse,” the company provides download codes that can be printed on cards or distributed electronically. Authors must purchase a minimum of 100 download codes for $1.50 each — a total investment of $150.

Pricing for publishers is different. They pay 5 percent of the digital list price per download code, with a minimum charge of $.25 and a maximum of $1.50.

Books get added to Enthrill’s online “catalog” — which is also where they’re redeemed.

For an additional charge, Enthrill will print cards with your codes, or you can take care of that yourself (remember: each card needs a different code so you’ll need a vendor with that capability).

You can also distribute the codes one at a time via e-mail, making this an option for a free giveaway redemption or as a way to provide review copies without worrying about what device the reader will read it on — and, therefore, which format to send.

Get started

Enthrill plans to have an automated system for authors in place by the middle of 2016 but until then, the process requires human contact (not a bad thing, right?). There is no information about this author purchase option on the company website at the moment, but don’t let that deter you. That will change when the automated system is in place.

In the meantime, to order your download codes, you must contact the company by phone or email. They’re ready, willing, and able to work with individuals as well as companies.

“We started as a publishing house and love working with authors,” says Franco. “What I like most about working with authors is that they’re  extremely passionate about their work. It’s not often you get to work with people who have so much passion about what they do.”

What creative ways can you imagine for using download codes for your e-books?

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  1. Wow! Another innovative and timely solution for selling digital products.

    Thanks for always keeping us in the loop, and this time ahead of the curve.

    With my book being published in a few weeks, I see an immediate use of this service at my upcoming book launch celebrations, signings and events.

    1. I’m so glad the timing works for you, Flora. I’m sure Enthrill will be a great partner for you. Good luck with the launch!


    1. Kari, the primary advantage is that people don’t like to buy books from author websites. They prefer to buy them from established retailers with customer support, etc. Plus, selling gift cards they can redeem later might be a quicker process than having each buyer go through the online checkout process with name, address, credit card #, etc., too. Plus, using gift cards lets you accept cash or checks. You’d probably want to make sure you can take credit card payments on your smartphone (Square, PayPal Here, etc.) when selling gift cards, though.


  2. Dear Sandy, my one and only true love of my life [#43],

    You have presented such a wonderful resource. Thank you so much.

    I loved the comment about the wooden spoon and cookbook. That opens the door for so many avenues: murder mysteries on toy daggers, love stories on packets of candy hearts, espionage books on envelopes containing secret plans for jet-propelled tanks, war stories on photos of soldiers in war gear, navy stories on paper sailor hats, et al.

    One caution, remember the cost of the promotion. If you pay $1.50 for the number and $1.00 for the toy knife and sell your ebook for $1.99, you’re going to lose $0.51 on every sale. Of course if you sell a love story for $0.49 and print the numbers on cards with a heart on it, you’re going to do all right—per sale!

    I love you.

    Larry Winebrenner

  3. I started following BBB when you solved the big mystery of why our closest family members and friends often don’t read our books. (They’re not interested. Why didn’t I think of that? Just because someone loves you doesn’t mean they share your interests.)Since then, I’ve been a fan. Today you’ve offered another really helpful idea, as usual. Thanks!

    1. I am so glad to hear that this one resonates with you too, Sharon. Thanks for letting me know — and thanks for making my day!

      : )


  4. What is the benefit of using Enthrill over, say, Smashwords? With Smashwords, I can create as many coupon codes as I like, then provide them to people to download their file format of choice without an initial financial investment on my part. What other services does Enthrill provide?

    1. Rachel, if using a Smashwords coupon code allows you to accept payments in person for your e-books so that people can then download them from Smashwords without spending anything more, then you probably don’t need this service.


      1. It would be a bit convoluted. Essentially, I’d
        1. Create a code on Smashwords that allows someone to download the book for free
        2. Sell the person the book using my own payment processing system
        3. Give them the code to download the book in the format of their choice

        I could have pretty cards made up to provide the code for a more professional appearance, but that’s essentially the process.

  5. I love this option. There is a mixed bag of folks who want traditional paper books and those who don’t want to collect books, have no time or energy to lug a book around, and enjoy a fast read on their e-readers/ipads/phones. So far, my publishers own the rights to my paperbound and e-books. How do I get around this? Getting book cards from them is horribly expensive and takes awhile.

    1. Cristiane, your publisher can purchase the e-book gift cards from Enthrill. Maybe send them the link to that page on the site?


  6. Hi, Sandra!
    I’m enjoying my 365 tips. Today, however, I clicked on your post and checked out Enthrill and they have closed down.
    Thought you might want to know. I don’t know how easily you can update your tips. No big deal, just letting you know! 🙂

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