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New! Improved!

With Kindle MatchBook, physical book lovers might finally have a reason to buy an e-reader

On the wings of an accidental and then official unveiling of the new Kindle Paperwhite, Amazon has also teased a new program called MatchBook which allows buyers of physical books to acquire a digital copy of the same book at a deep discount, or even for free. The MatchBook program aims to bring in book buyers who still love owning physical copies of books but want the convenience of e-books.

When launched in October, the Matchbook program will only be available for books from select publishers with HarperCollins being one of the only major publishers named so far according to the New York Times. Amazon will set prices of the digital copies, ranging from a high of $2.99 to some being completely free.

This isn't the first time Amazon has wanted to add digital value to a physical form factor. They introduced AutoRip a while back, which allows you to have a digital copy of a CD you just purchased -- which is useful if your Smash Mouth and Enya albums are buried somewhere in the attic and you never got around to ripping them yourself, and you are absolutely dying to take that nostalgia trip. You might not remember half the things you purchased!

While not everyone will find AutoRip useful, Matchbook may actually bridge the gap between analog and digital media forms by honoring purchases made on Amazon as long as 18 years back. Unfortunately, this means that if you bought a book from a local independent bookstore or a Barnes & Noble, it's not going to count. Also, some digital books are already very cheap, if not free, so in some cases MatchBook might not save you any money.

Digital copies of books have always been a tough sell, with prices similar to physical books and higher barriers to entry in the cost of purchasing an e-reader. If you wanted to go digital it was hard to justify buying physical books, and if you loved your bookshelves it was hard to take your collection digital. Audiophiles may be familiar with this concept, as many new vinyl records come with a code for a digital copy of the album for the same reason.

MatchBook will hopefully give digital value to physical purchases and Amazon hopes it will entice book lovers to embrace e-readers like the Kindle Paperwhite by not forcing us to choose between convenience and nostalgia.