Amazon opening self-publishing to more media?

Amazon opening self-publishing to more media?

Independent publishing for the Kindle has been an important part of the success of the device.

While it’s hard to tell exactly which book come through Amazon’s Digital Text Platform, it’s clear that they have sold well.  One of the success stories is Karen McQuestion.  Her debut novel, A Scattered Life (first published for the Kindle), has been republished as part of the AmazonEncore program…and optioned for a movie. 

While that’s certainly a high-profile case, many others have done quite well.

Why has that helped the Kindle device?

Unique content.

The Agency Model has meant no price competition on most well-known books.

You can compete on customer service…but that’s most apparent after someone has already selected your device.

If you are looking at different e-book sites, one of the things that can be apparent is which one has the most books.

Barnes & Noble states that they have more, but they are counting freebies you can get directly for the NOOK…and indirectly for the Kindle, generally.  That certainly may convince some people…but in searches or browsing on a site, Amazon easily wins.  Click on Fiction in the Kindle store, and you get 257,073 results.  Going to All Fiction NOOKbooks at Barnes & Noble gets you 101,734…not even half as many.

Now, there are two important signs that Amazon may be opening up Kindle publishing to things besides books. 

First, they’ve rebranded their independent publishing service for the Kindle.

Rebranding costs some money and can create some confusion.  You have to redo your website and references…and other people’s items now refer to something that doesn’t exist any more.  It may not be terribly expensive, but it’s not something to be done cavalierly.

Amazon has rebranded the Digital Text Platform to Kindle Direct Publishing.

That may not sound like much of a change, but since it costs Amazon some money and could create some confusion (change is hard), the question is…why?

Let’s look at what they changed in the name.

They added “Kindle”…that obviously makes sense.  When they started it, they may not have wanted to tie it completely to the one device.  Right from the beginning, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has said he wanted to keep the e-book and EBR (E-Book Reader) markets separate.  He wanted Kindle books to be able to be read on many devices, which is certainly the case.  They can be read (using free apps) on PCs, Macs, iPads, iPhones, iPod touches, Blackberrys, Android devices, Windows 7 phones…and more to come.

Many people were, at best, uncertain that Amazon could successfully market a self-branded piece of hardware.  Not everything Amazon had done had worked, and they were going up against Sony, a very established hardware company.

The Kindle brand not being recognized isn’t a worry any more.  :)

So, “Kindle” as part of the name makes sense.

They took off “Digital” and replaced it with “Direct”.  That may be just a way to make it sound less techie.  Another concern with the Kindle was whether it would appeal outside of the geeky gadget crowd.  E-books hadn’t been much of a success, and the people who owned EBRs pre-Kindle were going to be more techie than average.  They had to be: there wasn’t wireless download directly to the device, so you had to be willing to work with cables and file management.

Changing from “Digital” to “Direct” may appeal more to the less techie…not positive it makes a big statement.  I’m not sure what you could do that wasn’t digital for the Kindle.

They also took out the word “Platform”.  That may also be part of making it sound less techie, more like traditional publishing.

The big change, to me, is taking out the word “Text”. 

What can you publish for the Kindle that isn’t text (words)?  Well, right now, you can do images, certainly.  Amazon has been trying to get more magazines available for the device (or at least in the Kindle store).  That might be part of it.

Active content, like the games?  Yes, that’s definitely a piece…but at this point, you can’t just publish a game through the KDP.    Amazon has to thoroughly approve a game…they could cause problems with the Kindle if they aren’t done properly.

I think, and I’m just speculating here, that they are going to open it up to other media…audio and maybe video.

Audio is part of my Kindle experience, and I think that’s true for a lot of people.  I listen to music and Old Time Radio shows, and I know other people listen to podcasts and audiobooks.  When I polled my readers about their non-reading uses of the Kindle, about a third said they had listened to music on it.

Opening up Kindle-branded publishing to audio makes sense.

But video?

Kindles can’t currently show video.

Devices that use the Kindle store can, of course…especially the tablets.

However, I think this may be another hint that Amazon is going to release its own branded tablet…which I have been suggesting could be called the Amazon Current.  That’s just my made-up name for it. 

Imagine a Kindle tablet, fully capable of playing video…and you can put your two-minute video parody up for it, earning a little bit of money when people buy it.  I think that would tend to make the device more unique and more attractive.  Something would have to make a Kindle tablet stand out in a crowded field.  The Amazon name would already help with mainstream folks who aren’t gadget-heads. 

However, unique content could be a big help.  It could also attract those publishers.

Amazon has already moved into the movie development business:

Flash! Amazon becomes a movie developer

While the original thought was that the movies resulting from that program would be available through Amazon existing video download services, it could be an effective part of Kindle video distribution to capable devices…which might include the hypothetical Current.

I said that there were two signs.

The other sign is that the Kindle store now has two bestseller list for e-books, and two for All Kindle Content:

Kindle eBooks storefront

Did they separate that out just for the games and other active content?  Maybe…those do sell really well.

However, that might (speculating again) be because they are going to put those movies and audio into the Kinde store.  Yes, that might be for sell to tablets besides an Amazon one…but I do think an Amazon-branded tablet makes sense.

What do you think?  Does the name change have nothing to do with expanding beyond books?  Is it just because they may put the games through the KDP?  Is it a sign of an upcoming Amazon tablet?  Feel free to let me know.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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3 Responses to “Amazon opening self-publishing to more media?”

  1. Edward Boyhan Says:

    Bufo,

    Back on Jan 8 you and I had a brief colloquy about a possible upcoming Amazon tablet:
    http://ilmk.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/flash-what-web-e-books-will-look-like-in-android-3-0/#comments

    My focus then (as now) was that if Amazon wants to enter the tablet market, they need to do something dramatic to differentiate their offering from all the others, and especially Apple (particularly since Bezos correctly stated that head to head competition with the Apple iPad is not a game they could win).

    Most of the prognosticators are guessing that the Amazon tablet will be Android-based (which is certainly not going to be much of a differentiator — given all the Android tablet announcements made at CES).

    Picking up on your thoughts here, it would appear that they are doing a revamp of how they will sell books, movies, music, etc in a mobile gadget world; and as you point out in this post, they also are gearing up to support direct publishing of all of these (hopefully with attractive royalties :-)).

    But they could do all of that and sell into the universe of readers, phones, and tablets that already exist. Why do we need an Amazon-branded tablet? What does it bring to the party that other devices don’t already provide?

    Amazon has made much of “buy once, read anywhere”; so why not just morph that into: “buy once, play anywhere”?

    Back on Jan 8, I postulated that one way to differentiate an Amazon tablet would be to use a reflective non-backlit display. You responded that you didn’t think the technology was ready. There were some obvious misconceptions in your response — particularly as regards Mirasol — but I was in the middle of moving into my new house, so I let it slide.

    I’ll come back to color display technologies here in a bit. Right now, I do think there are several ways that Amazon could deliver a tablet to market incorporating value that no one else is providing. First, I would brand it as the “Kindle Tablet”, and position it as the follow-on to the Kindle DX. I would emphasize its excellent ereader pedigree, but highlight its additional capabilities: color, full motion video and audio.

    Apple has shied away from the business market segment with the iPad (not that plenty of business folks are not using them) — with the exception of the graphic arts and print publishing industries Apple has been uncomfortable marketing to large enterprises.

    Amazon is doing exceedingly well with their cloud offerings, and through these have good conduits into many businesses. Of course a lot of others are looking at the business community as well. The DX was initially targeted at professional business executives and college students. The whole research/education/professional marketplace is a huge untapped vein — not just for a tablet, but for a usable e-reader as well. That’s why I think a tablet positioned as a follow-on to the KDX with features of particular interest to educators, students, and professionals could be a big win.

    Back to your comments about reflective displays from Jan 8. Everything you said is largely correct … for color e-ink, but not for Mirasol. Mirasol is a full color reflective display technology owned by Qualcomm (a big(ish) US company) with a color gamut much larger than that offered by color e-ink, and it can do full motion video — so yes it can play angry birds. I went back and looked at what they were demoing back at CES 2010 and then more recently at CES 2011. It is definitely ready, the factory is up and running (producing 7″ displays — too small for a tablet IMO). There will be a couple of no-name ereaders coming to market using these displays in the next few months).

    While I’m talking about reflective displays, the following article from eWeek:
    http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Midmarket/Samsung-Targets-EReader-Market-with-Liquavista-Acquisition-743291/?kc=EWKNLEND01222011STR5
    talks about yet another technology: Liquavista which has just been acquired by Samsung to be used in a forthcoming e-reader. I had not heard of this technology before, but it is readable in all lighting conditions, and has inherent video capability. Its response time is supposedly “70 times faster than existing reflective displays”. It can be manufactured using “modified” LCD production lines (the real issue with Mirasol and other new display technologies is increasingly not features, but manufacturing costs).

    Samsung is increasingly the company to watch in consumer electronics. At CES they announced a new line of ultra thin (.9″) bezel-less TV’s (well they do have a .25″ beze l:-)), their new series 9 laptop was favorably compared to the Macbook AIR, and their previously announced tablet and 4G phone (for Sprint) got mostly favorable reviews. I can only wonder what they will bring to the ereader space. Isn’t competition wonderful?

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Nicely written!

      We’ll see what happens. What I’ve seen of Mirasol hasn’t convinced me it is ready right now, still. Maybe I have’t seen enough. To be ready, I think it needs to be either as good as LCD in most aspects…or shockingly better in some aspects. The latter is what the current E Ink does…it’s worse than an LCD for color, animation, and speed…and better in battery life, working in bright light, and perceived comfort.

      Is the Mirasol, ready in terms of richness in color, cost, speed, battery life, availability?

      I honestly don’t know…we’ll see. I fully expect we’ll see some color reflective screens by summer…but I’m not sure they’ll be ready to take the market. By the fall? More likely, I think.

      Just by being Amazon, a tablet is dramatically different. Amazon doesn’t have to “win” agaiinst the iPad. That’s like the idea that the iPad was going to be a “Kindle killer”. Amazon would not need to outsell the iPad (win) with an existing technology tablet for it to be a wise business move. It doesn’t preclude releasing a reflective screen tablet later…they’ve had three clear generations of the Kindle in about three years…and many more steps than generations.

      I think where we have different conceptions is whether it’s the hardware that matters the most. In my opinion, Amazon doesn’t need to be out front in the hardware race. They’ve been a content leader with price, service, selection, and convenience. I don’t see a significant risk in introductng a current gen tablet with superior content delivery…to be followed by a later gen.

      We’ll see what happens…if Amazon introduces a reflective screen color tablet in the next month or so, that’s fine with me.

  2. Epublishing News Round-Up: Amazon DTP is now KDP Says:

    [...] I Love My Kindle – Amazon Opening Self-Publishing To More Media [...]

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