Amazon's Kindle MatchBook will let consumers buy print and e-book versions together

The new program, which is scheduled to launch in October, would let Amazon users buy a discounted e-book for qualifying titles if they bought the print version as well. But many publishers have yet to come aboard.

Shaun Stanley/The Durango Herald/AP
Assistant director of the Durango Public Library Sandy Irwin navigates an e-reader.

Will Amazon’s new Kindle MatchBook program be a good or bad thing for consumers and publishers?

The online bookselling giant recently announced that, for some titles, the company will allow consumers to buy, at a discount, an e-book edition of a book that they are buying in print. (Readers who already own these titles in print will also qualify for discounted e-book versions.) According to Amazon, the highest price print purchasers would pay for the add-on e-book edition would be $2.99. Some electronic versions would be available for free. Thousands of books qualify for the program, says the company.

“Bundling print and digital has been one of the most requested features from customers,” Amazon wrote in its press release. “With Kindle MatchBook, they can keep their favorite book on their shelf, and have a copy in their digital library for reading.”

Kindle MatchBook is scheduled to begin this October.

Forbes writer Jeff Bercovici says the new program fulfills a pressing need.

“If there’s one complaint that users of Amazon’s Kindle have been voicing pretty much since day one, it’s that there ought to be a way to purchase the print and digital versions of a book together, at a discount,” he wrote.

Author Marcus Sakey, who is one of the writers whose books will be part of the new program, said he “love[s] this idea.”

“It’s simple, brilliant, and good for everybody,” Sakey said in Amazon’s press release. “There are plenty of titles I’d like both ways. It’s ridiculous to ask readers to pay full retail twice for the same book.”

Author David Meerman Scott penned a column for the Huffington Post in which he declared that he “love[s] this even though it will cost me money in the short term.” 

“I've gotten dozens of emails from the readers of my books who want to have both print and digital of the same title,” Scott wrote. “They tell me they own the print version and ask if there is anything I can do to get a free digital version for them....  I suspect many authors will complain because the think an approach like this will take money out of their pockets because people willing to pay full Amazon price for both a Kindle edition and a print edition will now pay less.... The benefits of happy readers exposed to your books who might b[u]y your next one far outweighs the downside financial aspects.”

However, Los Angeles Times writer Salvador Rodriguez says the “service isn’t [a] money-saver for e-book buyers.” 

“MatchBook may be a good option for readers who use e-books but also like having a physical version of the books they read on their shelves,” he wrote. “But for customers who simply want to save money, buying e-books individually is still a better choice. The biggest reason is because e-books sold on are already pretty cheap.... value seekers should probably steer clear.”

And there’s an important group that has yet to fully come on board: the publishing community. According to the Los Angeles Times, only HarperCollins has agreed to participate in MatchBook so far. (The New York Times said “a couple of major publishers” have agreed to be part of the MatchBook program but that vice president of Kindle Content Russ Grandinetti was only willing to name HarperCollins in an interview.) Amazon Publishing titles will, of course, also be available as well as works released through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.

In the NYT interview, Grandinetti said Amazon hadn’t mentioned the idea to many publishers yet and still hopes to bring more on board.

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