kindle matchbookSo, I was just preparing to cook myself a nice gourmet lunch of haricots à la sauce tomate sur pain grillé (beans on toast, innit), when I saw that Amazon have just now launched a new program called Kindle Matchbook. Beans on toast, you’re going to have to wait a few minutes to get your ass cooked.

I’ve had a good few reads through the press release. There’s already some confusion over what the benefits of this program are. However, I think I have a good grasp of how it could be utilised by authors.

But before we get into the details of how it could work, let’s talk about what it actually is.

What is Kindle Matchbook?

Kindle Matchbook is a program by Amazon that targets the purchasers of print books. Basically, if you’ve bought yourself a paperback copy of, say, JK Rowling’s Robert Galbraith book, then if this book is enrolled in Kindle Matchbook, you’ll be able to download the Kindle version either for free, 99c, 1.99 or 2.99.

The immediate advantages of this approach are clear — you can ultimately earn more royalties on your Kindle books by offering the eBook at a discount rate especially for print purchasers. However, I’m not sure how many people buying print are actually going to want to shell out extra for an eBook, so I’m not sure that particular area will take off. If people are buying a (usually more expensive) paperback edition, then I think it’s probably because they prefer to read paperback books, full-stop.

So, if this is the case, then what’s the point of Kindle Matchbook, then?

One word: free.

Another: digital shift. Okay, that’s two.

Just a few weeks back, Amazon announced that they were offering free or discounted mp3s for all physical CD purchases. This marked a serious shift towards the digital, firmly establishing Amazon as a digital-first company whilst shrewdly injecting life into the flagging physical format. For me, free mp3 downloads to accompany a CD purchase have been a no-brainer for quite some time, and some independent bands have been doing it for years.

Kindle Matchbook is clearly the next step in Amazon’s digital conquest, but it could also greatly benefit the paperback market. Why? Well, like I said — free.

Honouring a free digital download of a book to those who buy paperbacks is a wise move. It means that readers will be able to carry a book on all their devices once they’ve purchased a paperback copy. It’s also a good way for authors to show that they care about fans. A link in the front of a paperback book saying, ‘cheers for buying, here’s a link to download the eBook for free’ (worded a lot better, obviously), is a nice sign of gratitude, and something I’ve been considering doing myself for quite a while.

This Kindle Matchbook offer may not seem attractive to those who have paperback books priced at £9.99 and upwards, but by offering a digital version for free and essentially bundling it with a paperback for, say, £6.99? That’s pretty good value.

I like Amazon. I like that they are trying new things, and constantly offering authors fresh ways to reach new audiences. Kindle Matchbook isn’t revolutionary, but it’s a nice feature for authors and readers alike. It will be a nice treat for those remaining paperback readers, perhaps tempting them to pick up a Kindle. But more so, it will create an even more enticing and valuable paperback/Kindle hybrid offer for those value seekers out there. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.

The best way I’ve seen this put is over at kBoards, where one poster described it as an opportunity to buy the paperback as a gift and get the Kindle version for free/discount for themselves. I’m sure many more creative ideas will emerge.

As of October, What We Saw and Killing Freedom  will be enrolled in Kindle Matchbook. Please note that your book does not have to be Amazon exclusive, or enrolled in KDP Select, or any other silly rumour like that.

At the end of the day, the question has to be asked — why not enroll? Overall though, I think it’s more of an inevitable and necessary tool than a revolutionary one. Things are going digital — this is just another part of it. Hold on to your digital horses…