MatchBook strikes out with bundling deal

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Is book bundling becoming a burning issue?

Amazon’s new Kindle MatchBook scheme doesn’t look like setting the publishing world on fire although it may well inflame bookshop owners.

The somewhat confusing deal offers customers who buy, or have already bought (since 1995!), a new print book from Amazon.com the option to buy the Kindle version of that book for $2.99 or less.

Promotional list price has to be 50% less than list price

Authors/publishers who have a print version of a title can enrol the Kindle version in MatchBook and then set a promotional list price (PLP) for the ebook of $2.99, $1.99, $0.99 or free.

The PLP has to be at least 50% lower than the regular digital list price (DLP), which, Amazon says, is to provide a compelling discount.

When you set the PLP, you will find that only options that result in a discount of 50% or more will be available. If the regular digital list price of your book is $3.99, your promotional list price options will be $1.99, $0.99 or free. You won’t get the choice of $2.99 because it doesn’t offer a 50% discount.

Matching royalties

Amazon says your royalty will be based on the PLP you set and your selected royalty option. Stating the fairly obvious, the company says if you are earning a 35% royalty for sales of your digital book at its regular DLP, you will earn 35% on MatchBook sales calculated at the PLP. Presumably, if your DLP is, say, $6.99 and you set a maximum MatchBook PLP of $2.99, then you’ll get a 70% royalty.

Your ebook does not have to be in the KDP Select scheme, so you don’t have to be exclusive to Amazon to use MatchBook. But if you offer your book free through KDP Select promotional days, then you won’t get a royalty during a free promotion and the price will revert to the previously set PLP after the promotion.

Any KDP title that has a print version and is sold by Amazon.com is eligible for MatchBook. It’s easy to enrol for authors or publishers, just select an existing or new title and set a promotional list price on the rights & pricing page.

You can unpublish and republish MatchBook titles at any time and change pricing and you can opt out by unchecking the box labelled “This title is enrolled in Kindle MatchBook. Uncheck to opt out of the program.”

The question is whether MatchBook offers any benefits to independent authors and self-publishers.

Problems in producing print books

You do, of course, have to have a print version of your book available on Amazon to qualify for MatchBook. For independents and self-publishers who often opt to publish only ebooks, this can be a lot of work in reformatting an ebook for print and adjusting covers to different sizes as well as producing a back cover and book spine.

The figures for print-on-demand orders are not very enticing. If you want to produce a print book with Amazon’s Createspace, the author/publisher’s royalty for a 200-page book sized 8 inches x 5 inches with black and white interior, priced (perhaps rather highly) at $12.00, would be $3.95 for sales through Amazon.com.

In the UK, the royalty on the same book would be $1.93 (for books printed in the UK) and in the European Union the figure would be €2.44 (printed in the EU).

If you priced the same book perhaps more realistically at $8.00, the royalty rates would be just $1.55 for the US, a paltry £0.39 for the UK and €0.63 for the EU.

Bookshops unimpressed

As well as the economics of MatchBook for independent authors and publishers, the bigger publishers might find their participation in the scheme would be very unpopular with bookshop owners who are already faced with daunting competition from Amazon.

This scheme would surely give readers yet another incentive to buy print books from Amazon rather than at a bricks and mortar bookshop. There hasn’t been much take-up for MatchBook yet from traditional publishers and only Harper Collins has signed up from the bigger firms.

Other bundling schemes

There have been various plans mooted for some time on bundling print and ebooks. Science fiction and fantasy publisher Angry Robot has a deal which keeps bookshop owners happy where people who buy an AR print book at an indie bookseller leave their email address and are sent an ebook version. When this Clonefiles service was tested in the UK last year, sales of AR titles from the trial bookstore tripled. The scheme has since been extended to more UK indie bookshops and could be available in the US soon.

Offer self-pub print version with an ebook

Perhaps enterprising self-publishers could consider offering a print version of an ebook at a cut price. There are a lot of book printers who offer attractive prices for short(ish) print runs. For example, you could get 500 copies of a 200-page softback novel printed for around $2.00 per copy. Take a look at my post on Lightning Spark print prices for further information.

You could then offer your ebook with a notice on the blurb saying, Buy this ebook and get the print version for just $6.00. Even with postage costs, you could still clear $2.00 profit per copy plus the full royalty from your undiscounted ebook.

More important, you would also be getting the details of your buyers as you would need to provide a link page in your ebook asking for their name, email address, etc. A list of this kind is invaluable to self-publishers for mailing customers with new books, special offers, etc. It would be interesting to see what Amazon made of such a scheme.