With just a few days to spare in order to meet its advertised “October” launch, Amazon has rolled out its new print and digital bundle program for books, “MatchBook.” With MatchBook, users purchasing select print books from Amazon (which currently covers about 75,000 titles) will have the option to add-on the Kindle eBook for a small fee. Participating publishers can choose one of four pricing tiers: $2.99, $1.99, $0.99, or free.
In addition to new purchases, existing Amazon users who have bought physical copies of books from the retailer in the past can go back and pick up the eBook version of any eligible titles under the same pricing terms.
Imagine you bought a book from Amazon 18 years ago… and then 18 years later we made it possible for you to add that book to your Kindle library for $2.99, $1.99, $0.99, or free. What would you call such a thing?
We call it Kindle MatchBook and it’s available starting today.
Many readers may be disappointed by the program in its current state, however. We tested our own nearly 10-year-old Amazon account, one that has seen many book purchases over the years, and only a single book from our purchase history qualified for MatchBook. The reason for this is likely reluctance by major publishers.
When Amazon first announced the service in early September, the company advertised that only about 10,000 titles would be MatchBook eligible. Now at “more than 70,000” titles, interest in the program has certainly grown quickly, but that growth is mostly due to smaller publishing firms and Amazon’s growing list of self-published authors. With the exception of HarperCollins, which has embraced MatchBook by thus far offering more than 9,000 titles, major publishers are poorly represented among the MatchBook-eligible options. After years of trying to squeeze value out of eBooks while maintaing traditional margins for print books, MatchBook is seen by publishers as a threat that could diminish the value of both products.
But if the program proves popular enough for Amazon’s large customer base, and if customers begin to focus more on MatchBook tiles to the exclusion of others, it’s likely that Amazon’s hope for rapid expansion will be fulfilled. Flexibility on Amazon’s part – Gigaom reports that publishers are free to offer MatchBook on their print titles for short “promotional” periods – will also help pave the way. Many customers will still stick with their format of choice, but for those who want “the best of both worlds,” MatchBook is a great first step.