MatchBook and the empty bookshelves

Amazon.com has unveiled a new sales feature called MatchBook: “For thousands of qualifying books, your past, present, and future print-edition purchases now allow you to buy the Kindle edition for $2.99, $1.99, $0.99, or free.” The level of the price is set by the participating publisher.

My own book, One Thousand Years, is part of this program. If you bought the paperback from Amazon, you can now get the Kindle edition for free. (Sorry, Amazon’s offer doesn’t work the other way; if you bought the Kindle edition, there’s no discount for the paperback.)

The transition to ebooks reminds me of what Lawrence Cunningham wrote earlier this year:

Books have lined the shelves of the offices of all my colleagues at every school where I have worked. In my early days of teaching, or when spending a term as a visitor, I’d wander into a learned neighbor’s office to get acquainted. The titles and content of those books announced a person’s intellectual background and interests. They were instantly and extensively a topic of earnest discussion. If my interlocutor should be interrupted by a call or an assistant popping in, I’d amuse myself by grazing over the titles, scanning the shelves that added up to an inventory of knowledge. On their shelves and mine, students attending office hours would likewise find easy ice breakers.

He goes on to observe that this will be lost with the end of print. I can only imagine that MatchBook will make the transition more convenient.

It’s not that we should give up, and stop moving to the next big thing. Every technological advancement probably loses something important. It’s interesting to watch it happening. It’s sad in a way, but I don’t doubt that we will gain something new at the same time.