They may only make up a very, very small proportion of e-book sales but if you can get your hands on one they might be worth hanging onto for collector value if nothing else.
To be fair most of the USB Card e-books that we see (or produce and supply) at the moment seem to be used as part of the PR campaign to launch the books. The cards are printed up with the book sleeve and an electronic copy of the book is pre-loaded onto the card before being handed out to reviewers, journalists etc.
Of course the books could be downloaded from the Internet but if you want to distribute copies of the book before the public release date and you don’t want to go to the trouble is setting up secure website with logins and download options etc. then the USB cards are a good way of controlling the books distribution. You can’t stop the book being “uploaded” onto a public sharing site but that’s a risk however you distribute digital copies of anything!
There is a real novelty factor to e-books being supplied for review this way and if they’re posted out its significantly cheaper to pop a very thin (2mm card) into a standard letter envelope than pay for a package post.
The opportunity for e-books is not just limited to works of fiction. Arguably the concept lends itself better to the supply of complex technical manuals, large product catalogues where significant amounts of data are often needed (much of which could be complimented by videos and presentations).
A classic example was an International TV brackets manufacturer who every year posted out a hard copy of their new brochure and distributor/re-seller prices lists across Europe. Because of the weigh of the catalogue the shipping costs alone were £10 per brochure. They didn’t want to put everything “on-line” preferring instead to send something tangible – moving to a USB Card that was pre-loaded with the catalogue saved them 80% of their costs.
With around 32GB of memory available on some of the larger capacity USB cards the amount of information you can include in an e-book is staggering! The trick to think outside of the box and come up with innovative ways to take full advantage of the flash storage on offer. Don’t worry about the grunt work of loading the data on the USB cards because your USB memory stick supplier will take care of this for you and most won’t charge if you get your data files to them early enough in the order process.