Prostitution and hunter/gatherer notwithstanding, I would venture a guess that writer and musician are two of civilization’s oldest careers. I would also guess that this is the first time, over centuries of these professions, that a writer walked into the living room to ask her musician husband about the wisdom of bundling her ebook with the sale of her physical book at a discounted. And for that musician to respond, “Just as long as it’s not free. Free is what ruined music.”

Ebooks freaked me out because I couldn't see my vision for my career in them. Now, look! I can literally see myself in one. Sorry for being a jerk, ebooks - you win!
Buy my book on Amazon and you’ll soon be able to get my ebook as a $1.99 add-on. Is that good? For me? For you? For books in general? I’m wading in to Amazon Matchbook with trepidation.

We live in strange times, is what I’m saying. It’s interesting to be doing something that people have been doing for so long but in a totally different way with so many different options. It involves making a lot of decisions about a tried and true business that are neither tried nor even necessarily true. And as Mike pointed out has happened with music, if we as indie authors or the larger publishing industry make poor choices, things can get really screwed up.

So here’s the question of day: Amazon Matchbox. Is it great news? Or is it just some news? Or is it terrible news? It was announced yesterday that this new program will allow people who buy books from Amazon – or have bought them there in the last decade or so – to get the ebook version of their purchases at a steep discount. I can see that there’s no apparent downside for authors on this, but the large-scale upside isn’t wildly apparent either. Yes, it’s an extra buck-ish a book. That’s a definite upside. But I wonder if, similar to the Napster/Pandora/Spotify effect in the music industry, there’s a larger, industry-wide impact of which we should be wary.

To be clear, I’m not saying there is. To be clearer, I’ve already signed my book up for Amazon Matchbook, and my instinct is to be pretty excited about it. (My Amazon royalties are actually higher on ebooks than they are on my physical book. So if people add on that cheap ebook when they buy my physical book, they’ll essentially boost the royalty to ebook level). I do think, however, it’s worth analyzing.

To me, it all comes down to this: will consumers use this program as a way to get two books for the price of one? Will they keep the ebook and give the book away as a gift? And if they do, will that be a good thing that gets my work farther out into the world (yay!!), or will it cut my total number of sales in half (boo!!)? We believe that giving music away for free was just part of the new music economy too. Now no one will pay for music, and musicians are pretty sad about that, unless they’re Lady Gaga. And how will this impact indie bookstores? Can they start offering ebook downloads too without sinking further into the oblivion?

I don’t know, guys. I guess there isn’t really a way to know until we do it. I’m betting publisher-backed books will be impacted differently than indie books, but in what way also remains to be seen. It’s a little nerve-wracking, but what about being a professional writer isn’t? And by nerve-wracking, I mean exciting. In the many centuries that writers have written, there hasn’t been a moment like this since Gutenberg. With the entire industry being turned on its head, it’s a great time to be writing and publishing. I think. I hope.

2 thoughts on “Pondering Amazon Matchbook as an indie author

  1. This is so interesting. I feel like I can only weigh in from the standpoint of someone who exclusively buys physical books, despite the fact that I have an ipad I could use to read e-books. If I was ordering a book online, I think I would pay an extra couple of bucks for the e-book mainly because of the immediate gratification – I could start reading the book right away and then switch over when the physical book comes in the mail. However, I also gift a lot of books and as much as I LOVE LOVE LOVE my local bookstores and feel passionately about supporting them, it would certainly be tempting to order online so that I could get a digital version of the gift book to read myself. I wonder if physical books are going to start coming with the digital download codes like lp’s do.. (but then, would all the books have to be shrink wrapped?)

  2. I loved how reflective your post is. Now weighing in on the subject, I find myself more inclined to buy e books when shopping online and I haven’t been to a bookstore in years. That is a very sad truth primarily because I love reading so much. With the ease of use and the whole idea of being convenient I believe Amazon knows what it is doing when it comes to the new program. I usually view everything as it relates to business and economically it makes more sense for them to bundle your products because it helps attract individuals looking to be instantaneously satisfied while providing them with a tangible object to hold on a bookshelf. They officially have killed two birds with one stone.

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