But first the idea.
One of the pleasures of being a reader is receiving a book as a present, or choosing one for a friend. Unless I'm missing something, this is one of the glaring problems with ebooks that probably needs to be addressed as part of their journey to social acceptance (one other is the ability to loan books you've read - come on, we all do it with paperbacks - more on that later).
We can buy our friends Amazon vouchers online and Apple iTunes cards in supermarkets, but that is a little impersonal. Authors can also, I understand, 'gift' ebooks to individuals through Amazon however I am led to believe that the recipients can use the credit paid for by the author towards anything else from Amazon if they so desire - hardly the result a proud author would like to pay for.
But what if we want to buy a specific book for someone because we think they'd enjoy it - perhaps we've read and enjoyed it ourself? Or perhaps we want to take someone out of their comfort zone with something that they wouldn't normally read? With printed books this is a pleasure we've all enjoyed as giver and recipient for years, but one difficult to achieve with ebooks.
Now Smashwords gives authors something close to this in that it allows us to generate codes that can be used to offer books at a discount or even for free. The limitations, from the point of view of a gift, are that they have to be time limited and they don't discriminate - anyone who offers up a valid code gets the book.
My idea is that someone buys a book direct from the author through his/her website or some other portal such as eBay as a 'Buy it Now', and in return the author generates a unique once only code. The author embeds that in a personalised document like the one below and emails it to the purchaser:
email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my books on Amazon (for Kindle owners) and Smashwords (for access to all other formats and access to Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Sony and many other good ebookstores. Possibly also on eBay grrrrr
Now on WH Smith!