O’Reilly Media has been on the vanguard of e-book publishing for years, pushing how-to content about computer use and technical training. Today they showed off a first: discounted updates for a title I already owned. During an Earth Day promotion I bought a discounted Photoshop CS4 e-book from the press. Since Adobe moved up to CS5 recently, O’Reilly figured I’d need a fresher edition of the book. For the non-fiction authors in the audience, here’s how it sounds when you want to sell a newer version to an older reader.

Hello Ron. Because you’re a valued O’Reilly customer, we want to offer you a special 40% discount on the new print edition and a 50% discount on the ebook of a book you registered with O’Reilly. Enter discount code “PHTC5” in the O’Reilly shopping cart. Offer expires July 25, 2010.

Another computer press, TidBits, gives its customers free updates to some of its Macintosh manuals, while also discounting for other readers who bought further back in the process. TidBits even has a link inside the e-book you can click on to check for a fresher edition. It’s all impossible or cost-prohibitive with paper books. A computer instruction book, or any kind of how-to, gains value through the search capabilities of an e-edition. The direct contact with the customers — which enables the publisher to address me as “Ron” — helps a writer build a platform of readers, too.

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