Amazon's Kindle MatchBook service: A match made in e-book heaven?

Kindle MatchBookAmazon has just announced a service that the world has been waiting for—to judge from the number of past calls for it and halfway schemes that have come some way towards delivering it. According to this morning’s announcement, “Soon Customers Will Be Able to Purchase Kindle Editions of Print Books Purchased from Amazon—Past, Present and Future—for $2.99 or Less.”

The full press release, accessible at the link above, details the Kindle MatchBook service, “a new benefit that gives customers the option to buy—for $2.99, $1.99, $0.99, or free—the Kindle edition of print books they have purchased new from Amazon. Print purchases all the way back to 1995—when Amazon first opened its online bookstore—will qualify once a publisher enrolls.”

Kindle MatchBookAnd yes, it’s a great idea—so long as you have bought your books from Amazon in the first place and don’t mind getting the e-book as a Kindle file.

Also, like it says above, books have to be registered by the publisher to qualify. Non-U.S. customers, then, or anyone who didn’t patronize Amazon over the years, are presumably going to be at a disadvantage—at least, until Amazon spreads its largesse a little further or other publishers and platforms are shamed by Amazon’s example into providing similar offerings.

As a Brit who has never bought a single hard copy from Amazon, I for one am not going to get any direct benefit from it at all, as a reader at least.

Also, what looks like great generosity from Amazon at first sight seems on reflection more like a very neat calculated ploy. Are they really sacrificing sales by giving away these discounted e-book copies? Perhaps, but probably not that many. How many of us would really buy an e-book copy of a print work we already have? In fact, Amazon is probably doing its own equivalent of reviving its backlist by extracting fresh value from sales made up to 18 years ago.

This is also a call to action “to all authors and publishers to enroll their books in Kindle MatchBook—offering customers great value while adding a new revenue stream.”

Authors available at launch include: “Ray Bradbury, Michael Crichton, Blake Crouch, James Rollins, Jodi Picoult, Neil Gaiman, Marcus Sakey, Wally Lamb, Jo Nesbo, Neal Stephenson, and J.A. Jance, among many others.”

I don’t know how Amazon has squared this with the rights holders, or what percentage they give to the original publishers, but it seems like a great deal from their point of view. And publishers at least will likely get the usual Kindle DRM lock-in guarantee to placate them.

Still, I don’t want to pick too many holes gratuitously. As Amazon’s announcement says, “Bundling print and digital has been one of the most requested features from customers.” And, it adds, “Authors and publishers using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) can enroll their books in the program today by visiting http://kdp.amazon.com.”

And I just received my own KDP email inviting me to participate: “By enrolling your book, you will be among the first to be able to take advantage of this new program … Your readers will soon have an easy and affordable way to read your book in both print and digital formats.”

So all self-published authors already out there in print can gain the same benefits too. This raises another interesting point: Does this mean that if I’m a published author who has never hitherto made it into digital form, Amazon will now whip up an e-book of my title more or less on request? Or is the publisher still expected to pay its contribution to the process?

“It’s ridiculous to ask readers to pay full retail twice for the same book,” Amazon quotes author Marcus Sakey as saying in the announcement. Well, doh. How long did it take the publishing industry to come to that conclusion? And many still haven’t accepted it yet—but perhaps they will now.

Authors, publishers, and commentators will doubtless be mulling over—and complaining about—the consequences and implications of MatchBook for weeks if not months now. And I don’t believe for one moment that Amazon introduced it purely out of public spirit, a sense of cultural responsibility, or because it just made good sense. But it’s out there now. And the whole e-book ecosystem just got that little bit bigger.

5 Comments on Amazon's Kindle MatchBook service: A match made in e-book heaven?

  1. “Over 10,000 books already enrolled from authors such as … James Rollins …”

    Oh, I am so there! I have purchased all of James Rollins’ books over the years (and almost all from Amazon). Recently I started re-reading them on my Kindle, and so this is wonderful news! Looking forward to more authors joining this program, and hopefully it will spread to all the Amazon stores.

  2. Sounds like a great idea to me. For a nominal price (I chose $0.99, discounted from the normal $2.99), readers can bundle a paperback and e-book copy of my books. They can even keep one and give the other away as a gift.

    Of note: the price an author selects ($2.99, $1.99, $0.99, or free) must be at least 50% off the normal list price of the e-book.

    I think it’s a win-win for both authors and readers (and Amazon). I get a few more cents, and readers get nice discounts on bundling e- and p- versions of a book.

  3. A very smart business tactic. Amazon knows that print is on the way out. The window of opportunity to get people firmly fixed into the Amazon silo is finite. They have the first mover advantage here it seems.

  4. Amen to that, Frank. And once again, the publishers themselves lose out by clinging on to their old revenue streams and pricing levels too tenaciously. Serve them right, IMHO.

  5. Brenda Rudolph // October 18, 2013 at 4:25 pm //

    Am I reading this correctly, each e-book you buy is a REPEAT of the print copy you have already bought from Amazon? Limited market.

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