Currently only advertised on the US website although its international spread is inevitable, Amazon’s Matchbook scheme will offer customers of physical books the chance to receive a digital copy for free or a discounted price. An innovative idea, Matchbook has the potential to put an end to the recent raging debate of e-books versus traditional print in the same way that the company now allows you to immediately download the MP3 version of a physical album that you buy.
So why is the scheme so great? For starters, those who revere physical books but can’t deny the practicalities of e-readers will be happy; they can have the best of both worlds. You can still hold and read a real book in all its traditional glory, but you can keep those to read at home and then take your Kindle out and about. Kindles hold a ridiculous amount of books, so can easily match all the books on your bookshelves.
This brings me on to the next big point: Matchbook will allow you to complement your previously Amazon-bought book collection with digital copies, as you will be able to retroactively buy a digital copy of any title you bought since Amazon first started in 1995. Depending on your book buying habits, that could be an awful lot of titles! This could be a brilliant way to load up your Kindle and re-read those lost gems, especially the 800 page tomes that you can’t normally shove in your bag. It may also be particularly useful for reference guides and how-to books that are better to have physical copies of, for ease of flicking through and finding a quick point, but are also handy outside the house.
Essentially, digital copies are only technically rented from the company as you license the material when you pay; this isn’t normally a problem, but it will give you some extra security over your property if you purchase the physical books too.
On the other hand, many are still talking about culture’s move to digital: many also aren’t buying DVDs or blu-rays anymore as they can stream from services like Netflix or buy digital versions instead. Due to the obvious reduction in packaging, manufacturing and delivery, these formats are usually cheaper, and they can also save a lot of household space.
The same goes for books. In this scheme, you’re technically buying the physical book, which means you’re likely to pay more than if you’d decided to buy yourself the Kindle version. Also, all we currently know is that the digital book could range from being free up to $2.99 (£1.69), so if you bought lots of books for which the digital version happened to be at the top of that price range then the total costs will start to add up very soon- especially since you may have already bought a Kindle, too!
Equally, those who threw praise upon the Kindle for its space saving abilities will obviously negate that completely if they buy the physical books to match everything.
Overall, the Amazon scheme is definitely a step in the right direction; it will undoubtedly help the struggling physical book publishing world, and it has a best of both worlds mentality. Once consumers settle into the idea and a few niggles are worked out (for example, working out if you need two copies of every book, and if it wouldn’t be fair not to make the digital copies all free) then this idea could power Amazon forward for many years to come.