If anyone still believes that e-readers are a fad, wake up now.
Amazon announced Matchbook, its new initiative for the Kindle which will discount digital versions of books that users bought from Amazon in paper form. Users can purchase more than 10,000 books ranging from free to $2.99 if they already own a copy purchased after 1995. According to the press release on Amazon’s website, this was a much-requested feature that the company has been developing for several years. Many authors have signed on, but because of copyright policies, Amazon must obtain each individual author and publishing company before offering the discount. The program is scheduled to launch in October.
Ten years in the future, we might look back on this as the day that the difference between e-books and paper books disappeared. If Barnes & Noble and Google have any business acumen, they won’t be far behind in developing a similar program to keep their users, and Forbes points out that many books that most of us own were not purchased through Amazon. I know that the only books I purchased from Amazon are textbooks, so I wouldn’t really benefit from Matchbook even if I had a Kindle.
So far, I’m not seeing a downside. Authors are into it because it means more people are reading their book. Publishers are into it because it just means more people buying books. Readers are into it because it allows for more flexibility and a better deal for the money they spend.
Don’t get me wrong: Amazon is not pressuring everyone to suddenly abandon their paper books and go purely to digital, but they wouldn’t mind if everyone picked up a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas because they can get may of their favorite books cheaply or for free. TechCrunch casually mentions that more people may be willing to opt into the print version because they can also access the digital version any time they want, as long as they can read the print version on beaches or planes.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, just got through the publicity surrounding his purchase of The Washington Post and is now taking the seat as the face of evolving literacy in this country. He’s not forgotten Amazon’s bookselling roots, and he knows how to appeal to the younger crowd while still operating a successful business in the transitional phase.
I have to admit, e-readers have been on the back burner for me; I have a 1st-genereation Nook on my bookshelf that I haven’t looked at in about six months. I love having a real book in my hand, and collecting old books is one of my passions. But in reality, e-books are probably the most environmental and efficient things to hit the market since email. So if Matchbook can really bring more authors and readers to the market, then more power to Amazon.