Publishers will be able to use Amazon’s new ebook bundling feature for limited-time promotions

Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that ebook promotions could be offered through MatchBook for as short a time as one day. In fact, Amazon hasn’t committed to the exact length that these promotions could be. 

In addition, it is unclear how easy it will actually be to add and remove books from the program. But a Kindle MatchBook FAQ for self-published authors notes that authors can “enjoy the flexibility of setting a Promotional List Price for your book,” that they can “un-publish and re-publish your Kindle MatchBook title at any time,” and that, to un-enroll a book from MatchBook, “Select the title you want to opt out of the program and un-check the box labeled ‘This title is enrolled in Kindle MatchBook. Uncheck to opt out of the program.'” This makes it sound as if the process is pretty easy, at least for self-published authors.

Publishers have been reluctant to bundle print and ebooks, both because they usually don’t have the technology and because they fear giveaways will cut into paid sales. By that token, don’t expect them to rush en masse to Amazon’s new bundling program, Kindle MatchBook. However, the program provides a real incentive for publishers to use it: The option to do limited-time bundling promotions.

Just some background if you missed it: Amazon announced Kindle MatchBook on Tuesday morning. Somewhat akin to Amazon’s AutoRip program for CDs, MatchBook lets customers buy cheap Kindle editions of print books that they’ve purchased from Amazon since 1995. The ebooks will range in price between free and $2.99.

The big caveat is that publishers have to opt in, so not every book is eligible. When MatchBook launches in October, Amazon estimates that about 10,000 titles will be available. A lot of those are likely to come from Amazon Publishing authors (whose titles are automatically included) and from self-published authors, who could opt in starting today.

What about big publishers, though? Of the big five, so far it looks as though only HarperCollins has opted in, and only on some older titles.

In a meeting today, though, Amazon VP of Kindle Content Russ Grandinetti told me that publishers will be able to offer books in the program for just a limited time.

That would mean that with a hot new title, a publisher could run a promotion selling a print book and giving away the corresponding ebook version through MatchBook for a limited period.

It’s not ideal for readers who would presumably like to get these deals all the time.* But it is an incentive to get reluctant publishers to experiment. Now let’s see if they try it.

*Or: I don’t know. Would they? Amazon says that bundling is one of its most-requested customer features, but it’s not something that I, personally, have ever really wished for: I see how it could be nice to have, but not necessarily enough to pay twice, even if the second payment is small. However, I can see how this feature might be particularly useful for academic titles, reference and cookbooks. And it will be interesting to see how readers use it and what the bestselling bundled titles are. To that end, publisher experiments are especially necessary.