In 2014, Amazon and the other e-book retailers began encouraging the publication of boxed sets. Two varieties were available--single or multiple authors. An author might choose to gather together several older books in a series. Or a group of authors could get together and combine one book apiece on a single theme. The retailers promoted this idea as a way to bring new life into an older book or to tap into new communities of readers. One group of mystery writers tried producing an anthology of short books from a variety of authors. Because each author pitched to a different set of readers, writers were reaching readers who might never have heard of them otherwise.
In my case, I decided to box together the first four books of my series on "The Civil War in South Carolina's Low Country." There were production problems from the beginning. The formatting isn't too difficult, but it's tedious because you need to remove some markups in the originals and then replace them. My old brain really didn't want to mess with it, so I hired someone to reformat the four books, combine them into one file and hyperlink all the chapters. My cover designer worked hard to come up with an image that included all four titles. And just when we thought we had the perfect 3-D portrait of a boxed set, Apple iBooks changed their requirements to outlaw all 3-D images, and the other retailers fell into line. Another delay followed while the designer came up with a completely different cover.
Once again, the major selling point was that the combined set carried a price that was considerably lower than the original cost of buying all the individual volumes. But in spite of the bargain price, my readers shunned the idea. I watched the sales figures and witnessed people bypassing the boxed set in order to order all four of the books as separate files. I thought I was promoting the set heavily, but people kept right on ordering single copies of those four books at their regular price. For example, I sold eight copies of "A Scratch with the Rebels" during the week before the boxed set went live.
What went wrong? In some cases, I learned, the boxed files were too big to be downloaded unless the purchaser had access to high-speed internet services. Others found the 1300-page file confusing and too easy to get lost in. A boxed set seemed like a good idea, except for the reality that nobody wanted one.