Columns > Published on December 16th, 2021

Make eBooks Into Decent Gifts

eBooks weigh nothing, they don’t get stuck on cargo ships, and they allow people to read hardcore erotica without anyone nearby being the wiser.

I guess that last one could’ve just been “they’re discreet,” which would have been a discreet way of saying it. But I’m not known for my discretion.

eBooks should be the perfect gift, right? But the problem with eBook gifts is that they feel cold and robotic, like sending out an email instead of a Christmas card that folds in half and seals with wax. eBooks just sort of poof away, you don’t really hear about them again, it just...doesn’t feel like anything actually happened. Nobody ever actually held anything in their hands. Nobody looks to their bookshelf and thinks of you. There's no experience, just a commodity.

Let’s turn those eBooks into decent gifts. Decent gifts that sometimes make people (discreetly) horny.

Draw It

Buying someone that new Mel Brooks book? Get yourself a blank greeting card and redraw the book’s cover inside the card. You don’t have to be good at art, your crappy art is charming, handmade, and shows that you care. In fact, if you suck at drawing, it’s a small act of vulnerability to send someone your crappy art, and that openness deepens relationships.

Get All About Me by Mel Brooks at Bookshop or Amazon

Share Notes

Show the recipient that you didn’t just buy them a book, you worked to find them THE book.

Let’s say you get a book of hilarious short stories, like New Teeth by Simon Rich. It’s sort of tough to share digital notes directly with another individual, but that’s okay, there’s an easy workaround: Read the book, handwrite notes, take pictures of your notes, and send them as emails. The notes don’t have to be about the book, they can be about where you read the book, how the neighbor’s stupid lowered Honda was making a fucking annoying noise the whole time you were reading, whatever. Give them a connection to you that lasts throughout the whole reading process.

Get New Teeth by Simon Rich at Bookshop or Amazon 

Book of the Month

Instead of dumping eBooks on someone all at once, send them a book every month for the next year. Buy the books now, schedule them out, and then you’ll have touchpoints with your loved one all year long. If you don’t want to spend money on a full dozen, if you’re not like a dozen eBooks in love with the person, schedule them out at random intervals so they’ll come as surprises. A plus of doing it this way is that the newest book will jump to the front of their library, so it’s a little harder to forget about them as a batch.

Book Selection

Your local library almost definitely has a book selection program, sometimes called a Reader's Advisory thing, sometimes Personalized Reading List. Input your friend’s info to get a gift guide, then fulfill it, and include the guide so your friend can see all the books they might like, even if you don’t buy all of them. And really have the library do it. That way, if the choices are way off, you can both laugh about it instead of the other person awkwardly pretending they love what you sent. Make the selection process super transparent, and show the recipient that you didn’t just buy them a book, you worked to find them THE book.


There’s usually a little space to personalize the email notifying someone of their gift, so just add this text: “This email also serves as a coupon for [insert your sexual favor of choice].” This is not a good suggestion for your boss, your employee, your neighbor who mostly ignores you, etc. But for the right person, it can really make the gift of Sam Tallent's book pretty damn memorable on a completely different level. Bonus, if you do get one of those aforementioned sexy books, just say, “That thing on page 212? We should do that.”

Get Running the Light by Sam Tallent at Bookshop or Amazon 


Send along something that brings more senses into the reading. If you get The Cabin at the End of the World, send a pine-scented candle. If you buy an electronic copy of The Road, send an oil lamp. If you get them a Willie Vlautin book, easy, make a quick Spotify playlist of Vlautin-penned songs to go along with the book. Add another sense to the reading experience and pump it up. Bonus if you can add that sense through a playlist, recipe, or something you can send electronically. 

Get The Night Always Comes by Willy Vlautin at Bookshop or Amazon 

Your Voice

Record a voice note on your phone, say hello, tell the person you’re sending a book, why you picked that book, then read the first page or two out loud. Send them the voice note. This isn’t for everyone, but if you’re sending your mom an eBook, definitely do it. She’ll be happy to hear your voice. You're no James Welch, but that's okay, your loved one will forgive you for that. 

Get Fools Crow by James Welch at Bookshop or Amazon 

Read Together

Send a book neither of you have read, and tell your friend you’re going to call every month. There are certain books that work best for this, like Dangerous Games to Play in the Dark. It’s not an epic fantasy or thrilling piece of fiction someone will read in one shot. It's chunked, something they can pick up 10 minutes before you call, and it still gives you something to talk about.

With this one, you’re not really sending them a book, you’re sending them an opener for a conversation.

Get Dangerous Games to Play in the Dark by Lucia Peters at Bookshop or Amazon 


Choose Your Own Adventure is always an option, and working through it together over the phone or Facetime is pretty fun. Ocean of Lard is a good choice, as is Trial of the Clone, but I’ll recommend Try Not To Die: In the Wizard’s Tower. Writer and artist Michael Sage Ricci is the Dungeon Master we all wish we had. Send an adventure, and work through it together.

Get Try Not To Die: In the Wizard’s Tower by Mark Tullius and Michael Sage Ricci on Amazon

Send Agent Cold Beer

I read Agent Cold Beer with my book club. It’s short, it’s incredibly stupid, and it’s so much fun that you’ll be able to talk about it forever. Just include instructions like, “I’m going to call you to talk about this book on January 10th, so you better read it by then because I have to talk about it with someone because maybe I can stop my brain from melting.” Don't worry that it's listed as book 2. You'll be fine.

Get Agent Cold Beer On Assignment (Live It Up, Mr. Beer Book 2) on Amazon

About the author

Peter Derk lives, writes, and works in Colorado. Buy him a drink and he'll talk books all day.  Buy him two and he'll be happy to tell you about the horrors of being responsible for a public restroom.

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