Amazon on Tuesday announced a new program that offers customers discounted digital copies of select print books purchased through its website.
Called Kindle Matchbook – in a continuation of Amazon's eerily Fahrenheit 451–esque branding for its ebook line – the program will allow customers to purchase ebook versions of their Amazon print purchases for $2.99, $1.99, $0.99, or free.
Publishers must enroll specific books in Matchbook for the discounted digital option to become available, but once they do, the offer applies to past purchases as well as new ones, going back as far as when Amazon first opened its virtual doors in 1995.
"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," wrote VP of Kindle content Russ Grandinetti in a statement, "Kindle MatchBook now makes it possible for that purchase – 18 years later – to be added to your Kindle library at a very low cost."
In this sense, the program is similar to the AutoRip service that Amazon launched in January, in which tracks from CDs purchased from the e-tailer are automatically loaded into customers' Amazon Cloud Player libraries.
Amazon says more than 10,000 books are already enrolled in Matchbook, including works by Ray Bradbury [Hmm, wonder which book? – ed.], Michael Crichton, Blake Crouch, James Rollins, Jodi Picoult, Neil Gaiman, Marcus Sakey, Wally Lamb, Jo Nesbo, Neal Stephenson, and J.A. Jance, among others.
In addition, Amazon will enroll all of the books released via its own Amazon Publishing imprint, and independent authors who publish their works through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing program can enroll their own books via the program's website.
The program will officially launch in the US in October. When El Reg asked for clarification when it might be available in other markets, a spokeswoman told us, "Kindle MatchBook is only available on www.amazon.com."
Kindle Paperwhite upgrade
Simultaneous with the launch of Kindle Matchbook, Amazon also announced a new version of its flagship e-ink reading device, the Kindle Paperwhite.
The new gadget isn't a dramatic upgrade from the previous generation – to our eyes its body looks identical – but it features a 25 per cent faster processor and improvements to the contrast of the e-ink screen, the built-in light, and touch responsiveness. Battery life is claimed to be eight weeks, the same as the earlier version.
The reader's software gets a few upgrades, too. This version includes Kindle Page Flip, a feature that makes it easier to skim to specific sections of a book without losing your place, and Smart Lookup, which adds information from Wikipedia and other reference sources to dictionary lookups. Integration with Goodreads and Amazon's Kindle FreeTime parental controls will arrive in a software update by the holiday season.
The previous version of the Kindle Paperwhite is no longer available via Amazon's website. The new version is available for preorder for $139 (£109) for the Wi-Fi only version or $189 (£169) for a version with 3G networking. US customers can also opt for a version of the Wi-Fi model that includes advertising for $119.
The new Wi-Fi Kindle Paperwhite will ship on September 30 in the US and on October 9 in the UK and Europe. The 3G version is expected to ship on November 5 in the US and on November 6 in the UK. ®