As a reader, Amazon’s announcement about Kindle Matchbook sounds like a great way to expand readers’ libraries. Going as far back as 1995, if you bought a print book from Amazon, you’ll have the opportunity with a growing list of titles to order the e-book version of them at a very discounted price. As an author using Amazon’s KDP program, there are even bigger opportunities.

Stack of Amazon.com Packages

In Neil Gaiman’s London Book Fair Speech, he emphasizes that the publishing world is changing. One of the possibilities of change he suggests is that “…one of the things that we should definitely be doing in digital in the world of publishing is making books – physical books – that are prettier, finer, and better. That we should be fetishizing objects. We should be giving people a reason to buy objects, not just content if we want to sell them objects.” He goes further to suggest imagining a “…world in which buying a physical book automatically gives you e-books and audiobooks.”

Gaiman has tried many things that prove he’s willing to take chances, but the publishing world hasn’t been following his lead. To have Amazon actually stepping out to offer those chances is a bold move, especially in the wake of the Department of Justice ruling against Apple about price collusion with publishing houses. It’s no surprise that Gaiman is listed among the authors and their works included in the program, joining others such as John Irving, Jodi Picoult, Michael Chricton, Neal Stephenson, and Ray Bradbury.

Amazon’s Matchbook opens different options of book buying to readers. If there are others like me who buy both the physical book as well as the digital version for certain titles, then this is an great offer. What’s even more enticing is the ability to go back to some of your earlier book purchases through Amazon to take advantage of available digital titles at a discounted rate.

For authors, especially those self-publishing, Matchbook offers increasing benefits. According to Tech Crunch, authors who want to participate, “…have to be selling a physical book of some sort on Amazon, and be a member of the Kindle Direct Publishing program.” Authors do not have to be a part of Amazon’s exclusive publishing program, KDP Select, which is another plus. Pricing for digital bundling maxes out at $2.99, and the royalties work with the 30% and 70% range that already exists with Amazon. For some authors, it may help increase sales of paperbacks as well as be another way to attract potential readers.

Books will still be offered separately for those that want to buy one form or another. But the new bundling feature of Matchbook allows more flexibility than has existed anywhere else. Not everyone is happy about it. The small independent publisher Melville House have discussed the possibility in past posts on their webpage, but also in response to the Matchbook announcement brought up the issue of value.

Dustin Kurtz of Melville House responds that readers will need to be taught that e-books have a larger value than the discounted prices that go with bundling as well as stating, “…on the large scale and at the prices that Amazon is using, it is disdainful of the work that goes into every book published. It devalues labor and skill, and is disparaging of the abilities of a discerning reader.”

Low e-book prices have existed for years with independent authors and their works, and it has had an effect on the traditional publishing world. A bundling program like Matchbook is a threat to that traditional world because it once again is beating out the competition’s pricing abilities.

What would be great to see more movement towards innovative change in the traditional publishing world. Gaiman made another possibility when he said, “I suspect that one of the things that we should definitely be doing in digital in the world of publishing is making books – physical books – that are prettier, finer, and better. That we should be fetishizing objects. We should be giving people a reason to buy objects, not just content if we want to sell them objects.”

If the traditional publishers were willing to give me a book that is completely different than those that are being bundled, then they might get my money. Make it limited editions or ones with something unique within them from the author and I’ll consider spending my money on that book rather than bundling to get a paperback and digital copy. Finding a way to be innovative rather than bemoaning a new opportunity after its been revealed would be a better path to take, and I think there are still ways for traditional publishing to be innovative in what they offer.

As the program doesn’t roll out until October, the popularity or success of Matchbook is yet to be determined. But it’s hard to see Amazon as the big bad monster killing books when they make announcements like Matchbook or even as they launch their new Kindle Paperwhite that is the first of their e-readers that connects directly with Goodreads. And it’s hard not to imagine myself getting on board with the opportunity to spend a little more money to get not just the e-book but also the physical book for some of my titles. Now I’ll have to figure out how to create more bookshelf space in my house.

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