On September 3, 2013 Kindle announced a program they call Matchbook. This will allow people who have bought print books from Amazon since 1995 to obtain an eBook copy of the book, assuming that the publisher/author of the book has chosen to participate in Matchbook. The prices they quote for getting the eBook copy range from free up to $2.99. Once the service launches, according to the press release, you will be able to find out which books you have bought from Amazon in the past will be eligible for this. I’m assuming that on a go-forward basis if you buy a print book that is participating in the Matchbook program it will give you the option of upgrading, but what I read could not confirm this, so I guess we’ll have to wait until October when this launches.
Amazon has already announced quite a few authors whose books will be offered through Matchbook. Two that jumped out at me are Neil Gaiman and Neil Stephenson. This is because I have bought books from both of them through Amazon in the past, and in fact, one of them is featured on the main page for Matchbook.
A few weeks ago I posted about the idea of providing a digital copy of a book if you have bought the physical copy, citing examples of other media that this idea has worked in. I figured that eventually some sort of print book/eBook bundling would happen, as I wrote about previously, but I’m honestly surprised that it has happened this soon. I figured it would take another few years before that happened and I never expected that it would be retroactive. I guess that shouldn’t be too surprising, since Apple and Google both offer services that will match songs in your mp3 collection to songs in their catalogue, allowing you to access them from the cloud. Apple has been offering iTunes Match for a few years now, and Google got into that service line more recently.
This is a bit worrying for physical bookstores, since I’ve recently had quite a few conversations with friends who own ereaders where they will debate whether they want to buy a new book from a brick and mortar store or buy it for their kindle/kobo/Sony ereader/other device. By offering this service Amazon is taking the debate out of the book buying question; if you even begin to wonder whether to buy a book on paper or in digital Amazon can just say “why not both?” This will not only bring people who may have bought a print copy from a brick and mortar store to them, but it will also be another factor in deciding which ereader to get. If Amazon is the only eBook store offering this bundling, it is a heavy bonus in their favour.
Having said all that, I doubt I’ll be able to use this service any time soon. I may own a kindle, I may have bought large numbers of books (both physical and digital) from Amazon over the years, but I’m in Canada and this is only being advertised on Amazon’s US site. Seeing as Amazon isn’t able to implement a lot of their digital offerings in Canada (both kindle-specific, such as eBook lending or eBook borrowing via Prime; and non-kindle-specific such as Amazon instant video or Amazon music) I doubt that this will be made available up here in the north any time soon.