Amazon hitches e-copy to that book you bought in 1995

New MatchBook program offers Kindle editions of print books that Amazon customers purchased as early as the online store's first days. For now, the list is limited and could cost up to $2.99 per title.

A Kindle e-reader leaning on a stack of books.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Knowing that Amazon has a log of all your purchases stretching back nearly two decades may give you the willies, but for past print-book purchases, it soon could work in your favor.

Tuesday, the e-commerce giant announced a coming MatchBook program that will offer customers a corresponding Kindle version of certain print books purchased at any point since Amazon came into existence.

The program has two catches, at least initially. One, the list of eligible titles is far from comprehensive. Two, while some of the digital copies are available free, others will cost up to an additional $2.99 on top of your first purchase, whenever it was.

I'll give it to Russ Grandinetti, Kindle's vice president of content, for putting the program in historical context.

"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," he said in a statement.

"In addition to being a great new benefit for customers, this is an easy choice for publishers and authors who will now be able to earn more from each book they publish," he added.

It's hard to see how pricing a Kindle version of a long-ago purchase at a discount to the stand-alone digital copy could earn publishers more, but the reasoning holds that attaching a electronic copy to a print purchase for a couple extra bucks could still drum up some attachment sales that didn't exist before.

Kindle MatchBook will launch in October for past and future print-book purchases of more than 10,000 eligible titles from both departed authors like Ray Bradbury and Michael Crichton and popular living writers like John Irving, Neil Gaiman, and Wally Lamb.

That's a sliver of the full catalog that Kindle offers, but the company said it will be adding to the list and that Amazon Publishing will include all its titles in Kindle MatchBook.

In addition, the MatchBook versions of purchases will have a tiered cost structure, with some available for free but others costing 99 cents, $1.99, or $2.99. On a site to explain the new program, Amazon hasn't detailed yet which titles will have which prices.

But on the plus side, the Kindle edition via MatchBook isn't limited to reading on a Kindle device; the e-books will work on PC, Mac, iPad, Android tablet, or mobile phone too. That differs from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library that is part of an Amazon Prime subscription, which as its name suggests only lets Kindle device owners participate in book borrowing.

 

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