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Amazon MatchBook
September 4, 2013 5:19 AM   Subscribe

Amazon has announced that "MatchBook" will launch in October, allowing you to buy Kindle versions of select physical books you've purchased from Amazon, for $2.99 or less. The service will be retroactive to 1995. Reactions from TechHive, Time, and Engadget.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow (120 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great!
posted by Renoroc at 5:21 AM on September 4, 2013


If I hadn't already got my Kindle, I think this would have lured me into the fold.

Commonsensical and good business practice! What is the world coming to?
posted by Harald74 at 5:26 AM on September 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


No news yet on whether this will apply to other countries: here's a good wrap-up from a British perspective from the BBC.
posted by Sonny Jim at 5:29 AM on September 4, 2013


I like that they're keeping up the fire/bookburning motif.
posted by chavenet at 5:29 AM on September 4, 2013 [45 favorites]


This has been my dream for a quite a while.

I wonder how Amazon is going to screw it up.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:29 AM on September 4, 2013 [24 favorites]


Yep, my thoughts exactly. But I'll do it anyways.
posted by sio42 at 5:35 AM on September 4, 2013


Darn - there goes my fabulous marketing idea. I was gonna be rich!
posted by double bubble at 5:45 AM on September 4, 2013


The hitch here is that the only reason I ever have for buying a physical book from amazon is that an e-book version is not available.
posted by phooky at 5:45 AM on September 4, 2013 [16 favorites]


I don't buy a lot of physical books anymore (I've moved with them one too many times), but in cases where I do, this will be a nice replacement for the Rock Steady MatchBook program, which is made up of me buying the book and then Googling "[book I just bought] epub".
posted by Rock Steady at 5:46 AM on September 4, 2013 [16 favorites]


I am completely underwhelmed by this announcement. I guess I am the only one.
posted by sm1tten at 5:46 AM on September 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


This will go really well with the new Paperwhite feature that exudes book-smell.
posted by griphus at 5:54 AM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Less exciting is the news that this is only valid for titles from Harper Collins and its imprints. I'm guessing the offer won't be valid for libraries who have purchased hard copies...
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:56 AM on September 4, 2013


This is a great idea, but I suspect that it won't be much help for someone like me, as the books I'd like in electronic format are my university/academic press books. That's the section of my library that needs portability, as opposed to Random Anthology or Contemporary Novel, and Kindle prices for most monographs are yikes-inducing (Oxford, I love you, but I'm not spending $69 for an ebook). If Amazon extends the policy to books like those, I'll dance a celebratory hora around my office.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:57 AM on September 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


The hitch here is that the only reason I ever have for buying a physical book from amazon is that an e-book version is not availableDRM, battery-dependence and fragility aren't features I am looking for.
posted by DU at 6:01 AM on September 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


I wonder if this would apply to the gift hard covers books I've sent to folks over the years?
posted by tilde at 6:04 AM on September 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oxford, I love you, but I'm not spending $69 for an ebook

Doesn't most of the money for any book go towards things other than the physical book?
posted by pracowity at 6:04 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


After I replaced my vinyl with CDs I bought all my favorite albums on iTunes and now I pay a monthly fee to stream them on Spotify, so I'm really looking forward to this.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:08 AM on September 4, 2013 [22 favorites]


tilde: I wonder if this would apply to the gift hard covers books I've sent to folks over the years?

Oooh.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:10 AM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


After I replaced my vinyl with CDs I bought all my favorite albums on iTunes and now I pay a monthly fee to stream them on Spotify, so I'm really looking forward to this.

Until a monthly micro-free arrives so you can have potential access to books that, at any given time, Amazon doesn't find distasteful?

/Dead Pulverised Tree For Life.
posted by Mezentian at 6:11 AM on September 4, 2013


I'm excited about this. Like with the cloud player, I'm hoping I can get back some books I probably sold years ago.
posted by drezdn at 6:14 AM on September 4, 2013


The best part of this is that Amazon also sends a duplicate copy of each book you read to your NSA case officer's Kindle so he or she can help you track all of your reading and compare it to the reading habits of other persons of interest.
posted by pracowity at 6:19 AM on September 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


Man, people get so bent out of shape about dead tree vs. ebooks. I used to be one of those people, but seriously. Can't we all just agree that it's reading that's important, not the format of the book?
posted by specialagentwebb at 6:19 AM on September 4, 2013 [42 favorites]


Can't we all just agree that it's reading that's important, not the format of the book?
No.

No, we really can't. I mean we can. But books are better. They smell better. They heft better. And every knows what you are reading.

And you control what you own.

Plus, my shelves look awesome. I mean, they really impress.
posted by Mezentian at 6:23 AM on September 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


This doesn't go far enough, in my opinion. I want the books version of the old MP3.com. Input a bar code and gain access to the digital version automatically.

Apple got closer to the old MP3.com model with iTunes Match. I wonder if they'll eventually offer the same type of with their iBooks store.
posted by emelenjr at 6:23 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can't we all just agree that it's reading that's important, not the format of the book?

How you interact with the book is a kitchen table issue people are bound to feel strongly about, but doesn't inherently matter.

However, if one is phased out in favor of another, that definitely does matter, to the people using the "obsolete" format.

But the really overriding concern right now are DRM and freedom issues. Can I put my own books on there and have them work my way? Can I make copies and/or backups? Am I free to buy/borrow books without surveillance or revocation?
posted by DU at 6:23 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can't we all just agree that it's reading that's important, not the format of the book?

Only losers try to see the positive side of things. (Or so it's starting to seem around here.)
posted by aught at 6:24 AM on September 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Plus, my shelves look awesome. I mean, they really impress.

You (I think; I hope) are joking here, but I've actually met people (n=2) who'd bought old books by the yard (which they had no intention of ever reading) from used bookstores to decorate their homes. Scary.
posted by aught at 6:28 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The best part of this is that Amazon also sends a duplicate copy of each book you read to your NSA case officer's Kindle so he or she can help you track all of your reading and compare it to the reading habits of other persons of interest.

I got a great idea for a book club...
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:28 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Under Dutch law it's allowed to make backup copies for personal use of media you possess, like books, even if the source you get them from is itself illegal. So for people here it's not actually an improvement...
posted by MartinWisse at 6:29 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not all Amazon's books are DRM'ed. They have the .mobi format too, which admittedly is a chintzy knockoff of .epub, but it's still just encapsulated HTML, and there are some publishers who sell their books on Amazon in .mobi format.

All of this remains unaffected by this announcement, so it's a derail.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:29 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


For reals. MoanyFuckFilter more like...

What I'm curious about is how it will apply going forwards, given that paperback prices are frequently cheaper than ebook prices - it would seem like the sensible thing to would be to buy the hardcopy to get the rip cheaper. Or perhaps the pricepoints will be shifting too.
posted by Artw at 6:31 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


DU: "But the really overriding concern right now are DRM and freedom issues. Can I put my own books on there and have them work my way? Can I make copies and/or backups? Am I free to buy/borrow books without surveillance or revocation?"

I think that's the beauty of this model, though. You have the paper book AND you have the ebook. Your house burns down, you still have books in the cloud. Or if Amazon goes all Fahrenheit 451 and nukes their servers, you still have the physical copy. In essence, they're providing me with cheap cloud backups of the books I already own. To me, that's AWESOME. Now I have TWO copies of my favorite books. I can leave my kindle on my nightstand and keep the physical copy in my bag to read on the bus. Forget a book at home while traveling? No problem, I can now access it in my browser. Loan a book to a friend and read it myself at the same time.

If anything, it's encouraging people to buy real physical dead-tree copies of the books, because now it's financially feasible to own both.
posted by specialagentwebb at 6:32 AM on September 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


...bought old books by the yard (which they had no intention of ever reading) from used bookstores to decorate their homes

"Nancy Drew and the Case of the Burning Candle. Oh, you have the whole series!"
posted by griphus at 6:32 AM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


DRM, battery-dependence and fragility aren't features I am looking for

De-DRMing ebooks is fun and easy
posted by exogenous at 6:34 AM on September 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


If anything, it's encouraging people to buy real physical dead-tree copies of the books, because now it's financially feasible to own both.

The first thing I assumed is that they'll start offering bundle deals of physical-plus-Kindle versions for a little less than the two would cost separately (part of that area where they offer bundles of related books/products as a deal now).
posted by aught at 6:35 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The other thing is; I bought a lot of remaindered books there back in the day so I'm not sure if those would "qualify". I'm sure the third-party books wouldn't qualify.

I'm reading hard cover but it sounds more like hard copy which would mean paperbacks too.
posted by tilde at 6:37 AM on September 4, 2013


"De-DRMing ebooks is fun and easy"

Yeah, I de-DRM the books I buy from Amazon routinely. That's partly because I use calibre to manage my electronic library and Kindle and I prefer paragraphs to be double-spaced.

But more than half the electronic books I buy from Amazon for my Kindle aren't DRM'd these days, anyway.

Incidentally, Amazon has already been offering this service for CDs you've bought from them, too.

I've been regularly buying books from Amazon since 1999 and I've bought a large number. Not all of them I got around to reading; and of course there's those that I gave as gifts. I'm a bit excited about this.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:42 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Can't we all just agree that it's reading that's important, not the format of the book?

I like the idea of electronic books, but we ought to be able to buy electronic books anonymously, just as you can buy printed books anonymously from a real store, and electronic books, like printed books, ought to be ours forever to do with as we like once we pay for them.
posted by pracowity at 6:45 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"If you logged onto your CompuServe account during the Clinton administration and bought a book like Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus from Amazon, Kindle MatchBook now makes it possible for that purchase--18 years later--to be added to your Kindle library at a very low cost," said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President of Kindle Content.

Truly, this is a worst-case scenario.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:51 AM on September 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


Compare and contrast: Amazon MatchBook and iTunes Match. Pay for each book you've already bought from Amazon vs US$24.99 per year to have access to any music in your digital library via The Cloud.

Oh wait, Amazon already offers you a free digital copy of any physical CD you've purchased from them since 1998?

Sorry, paying for something I have already paid for is annoying. Yes, yes, if I bought it from Amazon, it's likely I saved more than $3 on average per book, but the same could be said for the music purchased from Amazon, and their MP3s are DRM-free. #firstworldproblems, etc.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:01 AM on September 4, 2013


Will this be 'retroactive' for titles that I've already purchased in both dead-tree and ebook formats? Not just "you bought the hard copy of the book, so here's a special lower price so you can get it for the Kindle version too" but rather "You already bought both hard-copy and Kindle? Thanks, here's a refund."
posted by easily confused at 7:11 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that's the beauty of this model, though. You have the paper book AND you have the ebook. Your house burns down, you still have books in the cloud.

Now that's trying to see the positive side of things!

Besides a potential house-burning-down, though, for the love of me, I don't know why I'd spend money on e-copies of physical books I already own. That's a little like buying mp3s of CDs in my collection.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:20 AM on September 4, 2013


And if you had a book drive that could rip your books to .epub format, that analogy would make sense.
posted by FreezBoy at 7:28 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't know why I'd spend money on e-copies of physical books I already own.

For one thing, copies of Godel, Escher, Bach or Infinite Jest or The Chronicles of Amber I could actually read on public transportation would be awesome.
posted by griphus at 7:30 AM on September 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


That’s good news for anyone who purchased a non-HarperCollins book from Amazon over the past 28 years.

I almost had a heart attack at the thought that Amazon is older than I am, until I realised that TechHive just can't do math.

I really like this idea except I doubt many/any of the books I've bought on Amazon will be eligible. Most of my purchase history are used books, too obscure for Kindle, or graphic novels.
posted by Gordafarin at 7:33 AM on September 4, 2013


Anyone know if this is going to apply to things bought on Amazon.ca?
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:36 AM on September 4, 2013


I don't know why I'd spend money on e-copies of physical books I already own.

You've never finished your last paperback in the middle of long trip, I'm guessing. I frequently want to reread certain books, particularly when I'm tired or stressed. This happens a lot when travelling, particularly changing time zones. I used to have three, or even four copies of some books, bought repeatedly at airport and bus station bookshops.

Now, I have a large portion, not quite half, of my library electronic. I never have to run out of things to read ever again. This is a dream come true, literally.
posted by bonehead at 7:38 AM on September 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Anyone know if this is going to apply to things bought on Amazon.ca?

You want Amazon to bring out features in Canada? That's crazy talk! We're still waiting for Amazon Mp3, streaming video, and almost all the Amazon products that are available south of the border.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:39 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think it might be nice for those books I read in hard copy, but end up leafing through and quoting extensively.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:40 AM on September 4, 2013


De-DRMing ebooks is fun and easy

Also a federal felony.
posted by acb at 7:46 AM on September 4, 2013


I think it might be nice for those books I read in hard copy, but end up leafing through and quoting extensively.

Indeed. I just bought a thick novel on Kindle that I already own in hardcover for just that reason. But this has always long been a dream of mine (warning: link to my blog post about this - not intended as self-promotion). There are books I have bought as gifts, or sold when times are tough. To get digital copies of these all fresh and gleaming on my iPad. Damn right it's worth a couple bucks a copy.
posted by Ber at 7:47 AM on September 4, 2013


You (I think; I hope) are joking here, but I've actually met people (n=2) who'd bought old books by the yard (which they had no intention of ever reading) from used bookstores to decorate their homes. Scary.

Oh, I am. I am riffing off an old line my some comedian which refers to a prospective paramour arriving at the boudiur, scanning the available post-coitus reading material and scuttering before the deed is stamped.

Personally, I have multiple book cases of books I intend to read, and am working through, and they look goof in the meantime. And, if I find the person who is excited by the complete Doctor Who paperbacks, so much the better.

But, I love book: the insulate, they look nice, and I like the act pf physically browsing selves.
posted by Mezentian at 7:50 AM on September 4, 2013


Wow this is a fantastic idea. It's going to lure a lot of people like me who: 1. Have around a decade of book orders through Amazon, and; 2. Haven't yet gone ebook.
posted by 2bucksplus at 7:53 AM on September 4, 2013


Anyone know if this is going to apply to things bought on Amazon.ca?

I expect. I procured some musical entertainment about a decade ago due to lack of option, and, blow me down, if I didn't get access to an electronic version a few months after the US did.

Fortunately, I'd kept the same email address for so long.
posted by Mezentian at 7:56 AM on September 4, 2013


Also a federal felony.

What isn't these days?
posted by entropicamericana at 7:56 AM on September 4, 2013 [14 favorites]


In essence, they're providing me with cheap cloud backups of the books I already own.

Until you move to different country and they are all like "Fuck you and your quaint notions of ownership".
posted by srboisvert at 7:58 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


tilde: I wonder if this would apply to the gift hard covers books I've sent to folks over the years?

Or the ones bought for me by other people?
posted by wenestvedt at 8:04 AM on September 4, 2013


If it is like the MP3s, it would apply to anything bought on your Amazon account. So a gift you sent to someone, it's yours. A gift from someone else, too bad too sad.
posted by Ber at 8:06 AM on September 4, 2013


So a gift you sent to someone, it's yours. A gift from someone else, too bad too sad.

SOCIALIST!
posted by Mezentian at 8:08 AM on September 4, 2013


I wonder if this would apply to the gift hard covers books I've sent to folks over the years?

When they did essentially the same thing with music (MP3 downloads of every CD you ordered), I got copies of everything I ordered on my account. My son's metal years, my brother's bluegrass birthday presents, stuff I shipped to other addresses, everything.
posted by ersatzkat at 8:09 AM on September 4, 2013


> But books are better. They smell better. They heft better. And every[body] knows
> what you are reading.

Why would that last feature be a good thing?

What I am reading is nobody else's business. I'm not interested in sharing any aspect of my life -- especially that one -- with random passers by if I can avoid it. If I'm reading a book, that means I'm interested in reading a book, not striking up a conversation about it with a stranger.

For trade paperbacks, I have some nice cloth covers for public reading. Hardbacks can get something like this.

I guess what I'm saying is that if they come up with a Kindle that has a viewing angle of 1°, I won't be able to click the "buy" button fast enough.
posted by sourcequench at 8:10 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


What a great thing Amazon has done for users. They are consistently pushing hard to give people easier access to the things they buy. When they launched Cloud Player last year and let me retroactively get digital copies of all the CDs I bought, that was pretty great. And now I get electronic copies of the books I bought for free or a nominal fee? Nice.

It's a bummer I may have to pay a couple of bucks, but I think it's likely Amazon's hands are tied here. There's in an ongoing difficult negotiation with both publishers and the Author's Guild for what the market for e-books is like. Amazon could just sit back and let the publishers dictate terms while skimming a few dollars off every sale, they'd do just fine. But instead they're pushing hard to give readers more rights. eBook lending, book "rentals", free books for Prime users, and now electronic copies of old purchases? Those are all things I feel certain the publishers would rather Amazon weren't doing. Of course this isn't altruism on Amazon's part, they're playing a long game on the assumption that the more readers like electronic editions, the more money Amazon will make. I'm OK with that.

Contrast with Apple's entry into e-books a few years ago. They colluded with 5 major publishers to raise prices, not just on Apple's store but on Amazon's too. And they lost an anti-trust suit for their illegal attempt to manipulate the market. Prices have already started falling thanks to government-neogitated settlements with publishers.
posted by Nelson at 8:13 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Contrast with Apple's entry into e-books a few years ago. They colluded with 5 major publishers to raise prices, not just on Apple's store but on Amazon's too. And they lost an anti-trust suit for their illegal attempt to manipulate the market. Prices have already started falling thanks to government-neogitated settlements with publishers.

Hooray, another industry killed by the Internet and one more step towards Amazon becoming the world's company store!
posted by entropicamericana at 8:17 AM on September 4, 2013


Why would that last feature be a good thing?

Personally, it works.
People who are say, down with Lovecraft, might invite you to get stoned behind the abandoned toystore. People might be reading 50 Shades of Twilight can be avoided.

And that girl you see at the bus stop that is reading Danse Macabre might be your future wife.
posted by Mezentian at 8:18 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


They're "allowing" me to buy something I've already bought, in a virtual format that costs them nothing, for another 3 dollars? How generous of them.
posted by rocket88 at 8:21 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, Amazon has convinced the copyright holder to allow you to buy an electronic copy of something you already bought on paper for significantly less than the copyright holder has historically said it's worth.
posted by Nelson at 8:23 AM on September 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


It is worth noting that this will be with the participation of the publishers, so if your favorite book/author isn't published by a participating publisher, this option won't be available. So far, the only significant publisher who's signed up is HarperCollins.

Interesting that it was announced that way. Seems Amazon either met a lot of resistance to the program, or they gambled that consumer demand would encourage publishers to sign on.

So far, the discussions I've had with my colleagues here at the publisher I work for, are leaning heavily toward participation. There isn't any market cannibalization here, except maybe the flood of physical copies that will pour into the used market. It would seem though that publishers could be getting additional revenue from a very unlikely source—a reader who already paid them for the book years ago.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:24 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also worth noting that Amazon knows what you bought going back to 1995. On one hand, who's really surprised. That's really the core of their business—data, not books. On the other hand, it also provides another delightful customer experience, which is really at the core of their marketshare.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:29 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess what I'm saying is that if they come up with a Kindle that has a viewing angle of 1°, I won't be able to click the "buy" button fast enough.

It can't be that hard to construct a screen overlay consisting of a grid of very thin opaque strips perpendicular to the screen, and just long enough to constrain the viewing angle to +/-𝜃°? Surely someone must sell such devices cut to the size of a Kindle screen (or an iPad, a laptop, or similar).
(Don't ATM screens have similar overlays?)
posted by acb at 8:33 AM on September 4, 2013


Amazon has convinced the copyright holder to allow you to buy an electronic copy of something you already bought on paper for significantly less than the copyright holder has historically said it's worth.

Where by "copyright holder" you mean Harper Collins, not the author, and by "convinced" you mean "where else are you going to go when we're the only game in town? B&N? Ha ha."

Once again, Amazon has made it cheaper and easier for the customer (no argument there - my Amazon order history is loooooooong and extensive) while taking one more step towards a future where all our products are mediated through Amazon. That's a terrifying amount of power they will have, but meanwhile, I'm saving my money so here's another order.

Still waiting for the Previous Day shipping option, where they predict what you'll buy and have it at your door as you click "Buy" in your underwear.
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:35 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Prices have already started falling thanks to government-neogitated settlements with publishers.

There's an idea. I can use some of the settlement cheque money to buy ebook copies. Given that the settlement amount for the book overages are pretty close to the ebook extra prices, maybe it's a bit surprising Amazon doesn't offer a swap as an option.
posted by bonehead at 8:41 AM on September 4, 2013


Also worth noting that there are some fascinating tax and revenue type questions involved by making this program dependent on a past purchase. In states where Amazon has acquiesced and started collecting sales tax, what amount is taxable; the bundled price or just the ebook addition? How is this treated from the author's perspective? Is this a sale or a license? If it's an additional sale, the publisher typically pays a 10% maybe 20% royalty. If it's a license, the author typically gets half of net revenue on legacy contracts. For this reason, publishers will try and claim it's a royalty, but it could end up in the courts if a smart author and agent decides it's actually a license because a royalty on that same bundled sale had already been paid.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:49 AM on September 4, 2013


But books are better. They smell better.

Here you go.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:51 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Amazon has convinced the copyright holder to allow you to buy an electronic copy of something you already bought on paper for significantly less than the copyright holder has historically said it's worth.

Probably didn't take much convincing. It's free money.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:54 AM on September 4, 2013


For one thing, copies of Godel, Escher, Bach or Infinite Jest or The Chronicles of Amber I could actually read on public transportation would be awesome.

True, true. For me I spent the ridiculous amount charged for the e-book Gormenghast cycle because even sitting at home reading them was a workout for mah guns.

I have a whole room full of real books, but e-books are more portable. I am sure that bpal has a book fragrance by now for those who can't read without it.
posted by winna at 8:56 AM on September 4, 2013


I guess what I'm saying is that if they come up with a Kindle that has a viewing angle of 1°, I won't be able to click the "buy" button fast enough.

Ta-daaa.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:59 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


MatchBook? Oh god, for a moment I thought Amazon was going into the online dating business.
"Serena91, xMoXXXiEx and Princ3ssM0gz have also ordered Gravity's Rainbow, Fisher Space Pen and Hitachi Magic Wand, would you like to say hi to them?"
Actually...yes, yes I would.
posted by sidereal at 9:07 AM on September 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


On review, I've been ordering gifts for people on Amazon for so long that not only do not remember the book I ordered I barely even remember the people I ordered them for.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:15 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Per agent Barry Goldblatt, they're announcing this before they actually have the rights to do it with most books. If Harper signed on, the others will eventually. But this is a power play from Bezos to make it so, rather than announcing an actually done deal.
posted by headspace at 9:15 AM on September 4, 2013


I figure this should say something about the costs to prepare an ebook from a back catalogue book but I can't quite figure out what.

What would be really cool is if publishers started including keys in dead tree books that would allow you to download the electronic version of the book.

No, we really can't. I mean we can. But books are better. They smell better. They heft better. And every knows what you are reading.

And you control what you own.


You can't grep a dead tree and lack of control isn't inherent in the ebook infrastructure. If you want the heft of a dead tree just tape any old dead tree to the back of your e-reader. Nobody can delete the books off my Nook. And having everyone know what you are reading can be a big hassle though someone should make cases for ebook readers that allow you to slip a sheet of paper into a sleeve that would allow you to brag about what you are nominally reading.
posted by Mitheral at 9:19 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


What would be really cool is if publishers started including keys in dead tree books that would allow you to download the electronic version of the book.

They do that with vinyl releases now, which has me thinking. I wonder if we're headed toward a future where physical books are still popular, but only in a segment of population that enjoys the ritual of turning pages while reading (and dealing with ripped pages, and poorly-bound copies and so on) and has the space and desire to fill their house with certain types of physical objects.
posted by griphus at 9:25 AM on September 4, 2013


What would be really cool is if publishers started including keys in dead tree books that would allow you to download the electronic version of the book.

There is a precedent in recorded music; often, vinyl records come with one-time codes redeemable for downloads via BandCamp or similar.

O'Reilly, meanwhile, have an honour system, where if you claim that you own a dead-tree copy of one of their books, you can upgrade to the (DRM-free) ebook for a nominal sum. I don't think they ask for verification, though some other publishers use a scheme similar to the manual-based copy-protection schemes used in old video games (“Enter the fifth word of the second paragraph on page 147:”).
posted by acb at 9:27 AM on September 4, 2013


Also a federal felony.

How so? 17 USC 1204 requires the act be done for "purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain" - nobody is suggesting that.
posted by exogenous at 9:27 AM on September 4, 2013


What I'm curious about is how it will apply going forwards, given that paperback prices are frequently cheaper than ebook prices - it would seem like the sensible thing to would be to buy the hardcopy to get the rip cheaper. Or perhaps the pricepoints will be shifting too.

I expected this to happen with Amazon's AutoRip for music, but it didn't. For example, Ben Folds Five's Whatever And Ever Amen is $12 for MP3 and $5 for CD with AutoRip MP3s currently. I've been seeing this a bunch when shopping for music and going with the cheaper option. I would love it if this were the case for books.
posted by eyeballkid at 9:29 AM on September 4, 2013


According to my account history, I've bought more CDs/vinyl since Amazon started doing MP3 downloads with purchase of the physical item than I had in the previous 4 years. Part of this is my finances, but not a whole lot if it. I'm sure this will be true for books too. I'd rather actually have the book but I'd rather read the Kindle about 80% of the time. When I can get both for new books, I definitely will.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:31 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


How so? 17 USC 1204 requires the act be done for "purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain" - nobody is suggesting that.

IIRC, the definition of “private financial gain” has been greatly broadened to include, for example, swapping files with friends without a direct tit-for-tat agreement.
posted by acb at 9:33 AM on September 4, 2013


The hitch here is that the only reason I ever have for buying a physical book from amazon is that an e-book version is not availableDRM, battery-dependence and fragility aren't features I am looking for.

My kindle gets charged when I load new books on it and it uses the same usb charger as my phone (so if I'm travelling somewhere I probably already have a charger with me). The battery lasts for weeks. Frankly, battery is one thing about the device Amazon got dead right.

If only e.g. a Spanish dictionary didn't need an e-book to be marked as Spanish in order to work with it.

Man, people get so bent out of shape about dead tree vs. ebooks. I used to be one of those people, but seriously. Can't we all just agree that it's reading that's important, not the format of the book?

If it isn't on papyrus or clay tables, you just aren't getting the real experience, you know?

Still prefer poetry on paper though.
posted by ersatz at 9:36 AM on September 4, 2013


Still prefer poetry on paper though.

I guess in some ways I do, but, honestly, reading poetry on a Kindle makes me feel a bit too much like Jean-Luc Picard to completely write off the experience.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:39 AM on September 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


Most of the books I buy or have bought new are sewing books or other crafty books which I need to keep a copy of so I can refer to the diagrams and photocopy the patterns as much as I need to. (God, maybe I need a grammar book after reading that sentence. IT'S HOT DAMMIT.) Anything else I've got second-hand or from the library, because my pockets are not as deep as my eyes are fast.

Unfortunately, I find anything instructional to be pretty rubbish as an eBook. Anything where you need to see the pictures or flip between pages easily isn't really made for the format - I include in this authors who use footnotes as stylistic devices, such as Jen Lancaster (I haven't even braved trying Infinite Jest on a Kindle - even something pretty light was distracting when it came to calling up two or three footnotes per page).

I downloaded a sample of a travel guide the other day to see if I could avoid carrying three or four paper books on future multi-city trips, and it was pretty fiddly and inconvenient. (Though to be fair, our main use for a print travel book is to check the maps before, during or after we have an argument about whether we're going in the right direction.)
posted by mippy at 9:47 AM on September 4, 2013


Multi-column documents are hell on e-readers.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:50 AM on September 4, 2013


If you could LEND Kindle books, though - that would be awesome. I know they have a kind of lending library with Prime, but honestly, nobody really needs Prime in the UK as shipping is free on any order that includes a book, CD or DVD, or any order at all over £10. I think I've actually paid for shipping on non-Marketplace items about twice.
posted by mippy at 9:51 AM on September 4, 2013


I'm sure the third-party books wouldn't qualify.

It doesn't for CDs, which is a pain when most of the CDs I've bought from Amazon have been third-party as they weren't stocking FSK or Half Man Half Biscuit or Slint when I wanted to buy them.
posted by mippy at 9:52 AM on September 4, 2013


If you want the heft of a dead tree just tape any old dead tree to the back of your e-reader.

More cheaply, I tape a kindle chassis to the cover of the book I'm reading so people will think I'm cool.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:53 AM on September 4, 2013


I was into that band before they were an Amazon bonus download?
posted by notyou at 10:02 AM on September 4, 2013


in the UK...shipping is free on any order that includes a book, CD or DVD, or any order at all over £10.

Well wtf.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:06 AM on September 4, 2013


You can loan Amazon books to other Kindle owners, at no cost. It's a vendor locked-in only, but within their system, it works. Does Amazon.uk not allows this?
posted by bonehead at 10:08 AM on September 4, 2013


You can loan eligible Amazon books one time only.
posted by jeather at 10:34 AM on September 4, 2013


Amazon does not actually need publisher permission for this. They could, if they chose, do what they've done with the lending library program, and just buy a copy wholesale on your behalf. Publishers... don't like that.
posted by nev at 10:36 AM on September 4, 2013


It used to be free for anything Amazon sell. Also, some of their second-hand books here are 'sold by third party fulfilled by Amazon', which meant I could order a copy of Not Buying It (iiiironeee) for £1.85, and just donate it to a charity shop when I was done.

You can't lend Kindle books here, tho. And the library near my office doesn't seem to be doing eBook lending - some libraries do now.
posted by mippy at 10:37 AM on September 4, 2013


So I just discovered Amazon's Order History Reports feature. I pulled my entire (item) order history going back to 1999. Then moved the csv into Google Drive's spreadsheet, then did a few things and made a pivot report.

My total dollar amount of purchases was about what I expected, though it's still an eye-popping number. I've bought a fair amount of electronic and computer stuff, too, and especially back in my dotcom days.

But I was surprised at the book total. The number of books was smaller than I expected at 644, but the dollar amount was more than I expected, at $7,980.18. Wow! That's over fourteen years, so about $570 a year and about $12 a book. It's probably less since I've been poor, but not a lot less. It's been my primary "entertainment" expense.

I'd be very happy to some of those on my Kindle, particularly some of the non-fiction.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:50 AM on September 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


Sorry, paying for something I have already paid for is annoying. Yes, yes, if I bought it from Amazon, it's likely I saved more than $3 on average per book, but the same could be said for the music purchased from Amazon, and their MP3s are DRM-free.

The impression I get is that Amazon would probably like to do the exact same thing with Kindle books that they did with Amazon MP3 albums,* but they almost certainly can't arm-twist the book publishers into agreeing to that in the same way they were able to do with the music labels.

For better or worse, the transition to digital music exsanguinated the music industry to a far greater degree than the transition to ebooks has the publishing industry. And that means Amazon has somewhat less leeway to implement new and interesting business models with books than it does to music, where it can run roughshod over the just-barely-moaning corpses of former industry giants. (This is also true of other companies; what Spotify does for music I doubt you could get away with for books, at least at a reasonable pricepoint, because the publishers wouldn't allow such a devaluing of their products. A couple of decades ago, neither would the music industry. But now they're no longer in a place to argue.)

* This impression is admittedly based on some conjecture about their goals and strategy. I think they would be more than willing to give away Kindle books -- in addition to the zero-profit they already take on Kindle hardware -- in order to crush B&N, Kobo, et al and advance the Kindle ecosystem.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:59 AM on September 4, 2013


The Order History Reports is a wonderfully weird time capsule of your own life.

"Teach Yourself Visual Basic-- why the fuck? Oh yeah, that one job.
"Palm V - how amazing I thought you were!"
"Twelve years later, and I still don't know Spanish."
"I bought the screenplay for American Beauty as a gag gift, right? Right? Tell me, Amazon, tell me I'm right."
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:00 AM on September 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Palm V - how amazing I thought you were!"

The first thing I ever bought on Amazon was a set of covers in different colors for my Palm IIIx.
posted by griphus at 11:27 AM on September 4, 2013


I'm not sure what's more astounding to me -- that I paid $299.51 for my Palm V, that I was reimbursed by the company I worked for for it, or that you can still get one for $200.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:42 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now I'm picturing an upscale antique shop with a glass case full of old PDAs.
posted by griphus at 11:44 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would love such a shop. One mint condition Palm III please and one of those folding keyboards too.
posted by honestcoyote at 12:02 PM on September 4, 2013


Sorry all we have is a Handspring Visor (regular, not Deluxe) and a Game.com we're pretty sure is cursed.
posted by griphus at 12:16 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I seriously doubt textbook publishers will opt their books into this plan, but man, I hope they do, because I just found the old textbook order that me and two of my friends went in on together to save on shipping* (back before they had free shipping after a certain price point), and oh boy! $2.99 electrodynamics and heat transfer books!

* 2010, four textbooks. Item(s) Subtotal: $553.54
Shipping & Handling: $17.95

posted by kagredon at 1:01 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do not recommend using that order report thing to calculate how much money you've spent at Amazon. Not at all.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:12 PM on September 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


I seriously doubt textbook publishers will opt their books into this plan

A more wretched conspiracy of thieves and criminals would be hard to imagine---they're the junior gang-bangers for the academic journal publishing mobs. So no, I wouldn't expect so any time before the sun turns to iron.

On the other hand, I'm sure your University bookstore would be happy to talk to you about their e-textbook subscription plans, now with full-colour interactive content!
posted by bonehead at 1:12 PM on September 4, 2013


I doubt you could get away with for books, at least at a reasonable pricepoint, because the publishers wouldn't allow such a devaluing of their products.

Also isn't the music industry much more centralized with most distribution rights for commercial music controlled by less than a half dozen companies compared to publishing. Or is there that kind of concentration of book distribution too?
posted by Mitheral at 1:16 PM on September 4, 2013


I do not recommend using that order report thing to calculate how much money you've spent at Amazon. Not at all.

Yeah. And then thinking about how I've spent at least as much on other books at indy or used book stores on top of that.
posted by aught at 1:22 PM on September 4, 2013


I'm an old piece of shit, pushing into my 50's, so I've lived most of my life in an analogue world. But such is the insidious power of adaptation, that I can barely remember how it felt to function in such a world.

I mean, I've only been using readers for a few years, and it's as if I never read physical books before, or it's something only gramps did way back when I was a tot hazy memory and all.

And yet, the evidence is all over my place as it's drowning in books and records. But wait, wait, are you telling me to go look up something in a book, on a shelf? Geez, I don't want to dig through and find that book. Yes, I know it's on a shelf, but it's the lower shelf and I'd have to bend - I'm looking straight at it, but then I think "it'll be hard to put back in". Just turn on the kindle (fire) - why is it so fucking slow - and in a few seconds I'll have the relevant pages.

OK, thank you for bringing me the physical book - I hope you also put it away for me - but now I actually have to turn the pages? What a draaaag! What's this - why won't the stupid book stay open, what's wrong with it - no, I don't want to know the finer points of binding technology. And why is this smudged? I can mark a passage, but not unmark it? OMG - the list is endless, the inhuman medieval drudgery of books. So user unfriendly!

And it must have been some kind of distant dream, not an actual experience, when as a young man I'd be on cloud nine about the amazing books I scored, a pleasant weight in my backpack as I head home. Today - what, you want me to trudge somewhere and carry heavy books? Instead of just having them appear on my desktop/kindle?

No different with music. I remember, when CDs were a novelty. Goodness gracious, it was the height of technology when I had a 5 tray system - I could put in 5 CDs! Then I got a juke mechanism wherein I could put in 60 CDs - my friends were amazed at the incredibly baroque indulgence my music interest required. Today, I still have the thousands of CDs on shelves - neatly ordered, because I never touch them - oh what a drag putting away CDs would be today! I have over 5000 CDs and I used to be the envy of my music collecting friends. Only now, with terabytes of music on hard drives, the CDs strike everyone as a form of pitiable insanity, especially - though understandably - because they are never in use these days.

Today, with my hard drives in multiple RAID arrays, controlled from the computer, it again seems like the height of technology. CDs are like something out of a different world. And now you're telling me about the "cloud" and pandora shmandora and on-demand-everywhere? For books and music and news and basically I don't have to get off the couch at all? When I'm just a moist puddle in a jar with wires sticking out (until it goes wireless), experiencing everything digitally, I won't be able to recall what it must have been like to live as an analogue creature, actually moving about in physical space. The only constant will be an Amazon account, which will control my very existence. Bezos really does play the long game.
posted by VikingSword at 1:22 PM on September 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Or is there that kind of concentration of book distribution too?

It doesn't seem to be anywhere near as concentrated. Six companies control about half the market, with the remainder many other small players.
posted by bonehead at 1:25 PM on September 4, 2013


Sounds awesome to me.
posted by spitbull at 1:53 PM on September 4, 2013


oh my god 11,938.34

on what
posted by elizardbits at 2:30 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


VikingsSword, you sound like someone I would really like to compare music and book libraries with.
posted by Ber at 3:12 PM on September 4, 2013


Compare and contrast: Amazon MatchBook and iTunes Match. Pay for each book you've already bought from Amazon vs US$24.99 per year to have access to any music in your digital library via The Cloud.

These are completely different services. Match allows you to upload 25,000 tracks you didn't buy from iTunes to the cloud for $25 a year, and then stream them to any device running iTunes. Mine has all sorts of music I've bought and ripped that isn't available through any legitimate digital stores.

The equivalent service is iTunes in the cloud, which is free, and gives you access to everything you've bought from iTunes from any device running iTunes. Well, almost everything. There are some obscure exceptions due to the vagaries of licensing no doubt, but Amazon has the same problem magnified. I have 76 albums in my Amazon digital library, and many of them are incomplete, fragmented, or mis-labelled. I don't complain, because it's free, but I don't use it, because my own rips are better, and already uploaded to a service that actually works.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 10:29 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"These are completely different services."

He was talking about MatchBook, the subject of this post, not Amazon's Matched Music. And Amazon's Matched Music, like iTunes in the cloud, gives you free cloud (and download) access to every digital music track you've bought on Amazon as well as free digital versions of (most) CDs you've bought on Amazon, which iTunes doesn't do ... necessarily, as Apple doesn't sell CDs.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:09 AM on September 5, 2013


I was shocked that I'd only spent a little over 5000 since 1999 on Amazon (but including "The Complete Prose of Woody Allen?" Seriously? What were you thinking, October 1999 version of Mittens?)...then remembered that most of my book-buying back then was at the Books-A-Million site, because they gave you a big discount if you joined their secret club...and every shipment had a bag of coffee in it.

Still, I look forward to downloading ebooks of "Regional Approaches to Mortuary Analysis" and "Pierre et Gilles: The Complete Works."
posted by mittens at 5:55 AM on September 5, 2013


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