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Amazon is now offering a discount to customers who want to buy both the digital and paper versions of the same book, with its new Kindle MatchBook program — which it turns out, is only a good deal for certain types of books.

In general, those who buy brand new print copies of books will have the option to get the e-version for $2.99, $1.99, $0.99, or free, per Amazon's press release this morning. The program is limited in scope: Amazon currently only has agreements from a couple of major publishers, according to The New York Times's Nick Wingfield. The press release touts "10,000 books already enrolled from authors such as Ray Bradbury, Michael Crichton, Blake Crouch, James Rollins, Jodi Picoult, Neil Gaiman, Marcus Sakey, Wally Lamb, Jo Nesbo, Neal Stephenson, and J.A. Jance, among many others."

While a $3.00 e-book from "major publishers" sounds pretty cheap, it's not much cheaper than buying the e-book alone — at least most of the time. 

After all, e-books don't cost that much in the first place — the average price of the 25 most popular digital reads hit an all time low at the end of August, at $6.33, according to Digital Book World. While that is higher than the prices offered in the MatchBook bundle, many e-books sell for less than that $6.33 price, falling at or below $2.99. So while the popular e-book Robert Galbraith's J.K Rowling's Cuckoo's Calling goes for $9.99, third on the Amazon e-book best seller list is High Heat: A Jack Reacher Short Story, at all of $1.99. Divergentthe popular Y.A. franchise headed to the theaters — sells for just $3.99. In other words, the $2.99 deal from MatchBook only looks like a deal until you realize how cheap most e-books already are.

As Wingfield explains, MatchBook does have some attractive features:

One benefit of MatchBook is that Amazon will let its customers buy Kindle editions of books that they purchased in print as far back as 1995, the year Amazon opened for business. The discounted Kindle edition prices apply to book purchases made in the future on Amazon too.

Speaking of 1995 — it's clear that Amazon is interested in playing up the nostalgia angle, hoping that you'll spring for Kindle editions of books you read a while ago and may want to read again:

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, Kindle MatchBook now makes it possible for that purchase—18 years later—to be added to your Kindle library at a very low cost

But as Wingfield notes, that's not where the real deals may lie. To really make MatchBook work, you'll have to show some interest in current titles:

Amazon currently sells the print and Kindle editions for standalone prices of $12.81 and $10.99, respectively. Assuming that Ms. Sandberg’s book becomes available through MatchBook and that Amazon doesn’t jack up the print price of the book, an e-book and print package for Lean In would cost $15.80 or less.

That's all assuming MatchBook offers popular titles like Sandberg'sAnd given its antagonism with the publishing industry, it's not clear how many publishing houses will lean into this arrangement.

Image via Flickr/Sean Freese

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