Is Amazon AutoRip a Precursor for Free Digital Books?


Amazon unveiled a new music service last week that will give you free MP3’s if you had bought a CD. AutoRip will give customers the ability to listen to the digital music in the company’s Cloud Player, or have the tracks available to download as MP3’s. This is a very convenient way to give people the digital editions when they have already purchased the tangible CDs. The main question is if AutoRip is a precursor for giving the ebooks away for free when you buy the print edition?

Last year Amazon began to gravitate from selling ebooks by other publishers to becoming a publisher itself. It formed an east coast publishing division in New York and a west coast one in Seattle. Amazon then hired star book agent Larry Kirshbaum to spearhead the east coast initiative. Towards the end of the year, Amazon announced it would branch off into Europe in early 2013 and Kirshbaum was put in charge of the entire US operation.

Amazon has thousands of ebooks it has published itself, with big names like Tim Ferriss and Penny Marshall. One of the more savvy moves was purchasing Avalon Press, which instantly gave Amazon 3,000 backlist titles. The move to publish books itself put the company at odds with some of the world’s largest publishers and widened the gulf between Amazon and its competition. Barnes and Noble famously said it would never stock a book in its stores that Amazon published itself.

In the past, we have asked Amazon about giving the digital book away with the purchase of its printed counterpart and were met with trepidation. There is simply too many hoops to jump through when dealing with the big six publishers, who see Amazon as a necessary evil for their book sales. Now that Amazon is publishing books directly and investing millions of dollars into the initiative, could we see an AutoRip for books for the content Amazon publishes?

I would venture to say that AutoRip for music is a precursor to rolling out a new program that will give customers the ebook when they buy a book directly from Amazon. This would be the path of least resistance because Amazon publishes the books and as an added bonus could incorporate books written by Indie authors using CreateSpace. The company basically owns the distribution rights for both platforms and this would be another nail in the coffin for its other competitors.

In the near future I could see an incentive program developing that is similar to KDP Select. Participating authors who give Amazon exclusive rights to sell the book net big rewards. Each title enrolled gets added to the Kindle Lending Library, which is available to people who buy into Amazon Prime. Each month, close to $500,000 is evenly distributed to authors who get their books borrowed for free! Sure, you can’t technically have your book available on other platforms, such as Kobo or Barnes and Noble, but free loans equate to some big dollars. Some authors have told us they actually make more money under Select than they do selling their book for $0.99. It would be all too easy for Amazon to offer some sort of incentive program for authors who physically print books with the company via Createspace. I know many people who would opt into having their ebook given away when customers buy their printed edition. Not only would the author capture the initial sale, but would get a small bonus for the digital conversion.

Michael Kozlowski (5211 Posts)

Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about electronic readers and technology for the last four years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the Huffington Post, CNET and more. Michael frequently travels to international events such as IFA, Computex, CES, Book Expo and a myriad of others. If you have any questions about any of his articles, please send an email to

  • Paul Lukehart

    Amazon does have IP on a system for doing autorip for books, and it’s based mostly on purchase records that Amazon already has for the ownership-verification part. We’re working on a mobile-based platform for doing ownership-verification, which would be platform agnostic (hello B&N and Apple!) and would be usable for the books you bought outside of Amazon’s platform. Check out Thanks!