Amazon announced yesterday that, starting in October, readers who have bought paper books on their site will also be able to purchase the digital versions for a nominal fee through the new Kindle Matchbook promotional program (by the way, I love the name). Here’s how it works:
- The e-books will be sold at a discounted rate, typically, $2.99, $1.99, .99, or free.
- The offer is retroactive, which means it would apply to paper versions purchased as far back as 1995 when Amazon first went live selling books online.
- The e-books will only be available at a discounted price from publishers who enroll in the program. So far, there are about 10-thousand of them, but I suspect that number will grow once Matchbook gets off the ground.
According to Amazon, the idea of bundling print and digital books has been one of the most requested features from customers.
Being a Thomas & Mercer and 47North author (which are Amazon imprints) I’m told my books will be included in the program. How do I feel about this? Pretty good, actually, and here’s why:
My first concern is, and always will be, for the reader. Whatever is good for them is good for me, and this just makes sense. I want them to have access to my work in any format they like and in the most economical way possible.
Regardless of what some seem to think, paper is not dead. My readers are constantly telling me that, while they love their Kindles, they also love their paper. Many also tell me they’ve gone on to buy paper versions of my books for their shelves. What I’m hoping is that, when my new release, Darkness & Shadows comes out next month, those readers will be able to buy both versions at a much more reasonable cost. And when you think about it, this could actually augment the life of paper books by driving up their sales and giving readers more incentive to purchase them.
And here's something else: with the price of e-books getting more and more competitive, this may drive some of those ridiculously expensive ones lower, something that, in my ever-so-humble opinion, needs to happen.
Using this feature will also, in essence, be like creating a digital backup for the books readers love. I know many people whose books are among their most treasured items. I also know ones who have lost their books to fires, floods, and other tragic circumstances. Those people can never lose their books because they’ll always be just a click away.
It’s great news for independent authors as well, because they too will have the option of enrolling in the program while earning the same royalty rates—so while they normally wouldn’t get the usual 70% cut for books priced at $1.99 and lower, in this case, if the price is lowered through Matchbook, they still will. It also creates another opportunity to get their work out into more readers’ hands and gain extra exposure while still earning the generous royalty rate that KDP offers.
The downside? I’m not sure I see any—although it will be interesting to see how many legacy publishers jump on board. We can’t know for sure, but my sense is that this is a win-win for them as well.
Of course, already there are the pundits claiming this is just another way for Amazon to make more money. I don’t agree, and even if it were, to that I say: What successful business doesn’t?
What this actually sounds like to me is Amazon listening to their customers, something that, in my opinion, they do better than any other retailer in the country. And really, the bundling concept is nothing new to them—they’ve already been doing it with Immersion Reading, a feature that allows customers to buy the audio and e-book versions of a novel at a discounted price so they can listen and read at the same time.
So what do you think? Readers: Can you see yourself taking advantage of this program? And authors, do you feel this could be a benefit to your career?