Last week Amazon announced a few things.
One, Amazon Encore, a program that rewards successful self-published titles, and the other – Kindle Publishing for Blogs in beta: a fast track self publishing tool to upload your blog for sale via the Kindle Store. In a nutshell, via Kindle Publishing for Blogs, bloggers can create an account, login and then add blogs for publishing to the Kindle Store. After review, there are chances the blog will be published in 48-72 hours (it could initially take longer because of the initial rush). Amazon will define the price based on what they deem is a fair value for customers, and bloggers will (eventually) be paid 30% of the monthly blog subscription price for every subscriber to their blog. (For more details, read the FAQ’s here.)
“Hmmm,” I thought. “I blog. I know bloggers. This sounds like something worth looking into, thinking about, researching, perhaps.” Because, you know, I’m one to hold a grudge (I’m working on this – therapy helps) and am still a little bit miffed about Amazon’s lack of interest in community relations during and after the whole #AmazonFail kerfuffle. And, to be honest, as a small press publisher (on many occasions, in past and future lives) AND as a book marketer for publishers and authors big and small, I’ve always had mixed feelings about the equity in relationships between Amazon and content providers. No one can argue that Amazon doesn’t offer unequaled wide-reaching distribution, but their terms tend to lean largely in favor of Amazon.
I know, they’re in it for profit and what should I expect? Amazon’s “odds in the house’s favor” policy is exactly why they’re enjoying life aboard the good ship Amazon, while the rest of us in the book publishing ocean are fighting over the last remaining life rafts.
Yes, Amazon is very good at what they do. Anyway, this isn’t exactly my point, or points — trust me I have one or two. And, I’ll get there eventually, but let’s get back to the story…
I was curious to find out more. I wanted to read Amazon’s agreement and perhaps flesh out what I could discern about what Amazon was offering to bloggers, and what bloggers were possibly giving up in exchange. So, I took a gander at that agreement.
I started reading.
And, I got confused after the second sentence.
And, as I always do when I get confused – I went to my Bookish Tweeps. Surely someone in Twitterland was twittering about Kindle publishing for blogs, and they’d be able to offer a fair and balanced view of the pros and cons… Okay, that’s just not true. Honestly — I just couldn’t wait to read what I assumed would be defiance from my upstart, renegade bookish blogging tweets. Surely they would be up in arms about this. “30%? HAH! Who does this Bezos think he is, anyway?” Yeah. I was looking forward to some indignant railing against the man.
Was I wrong. Instead of protests and jeers, I was quite surprised to find that some of the people I wouldn’t have expected in a million years to sign up for anything even remotely related to Amazon, were jumping quite readily on the Kindle blog publishing bandwagon. Yup. They were signing their blogs up for Kindle distribution, and they appeared to be not only willing, but also gleefully excited at the opportunity to do so.
I won’t name names (it would take too long). But, a LOT of book bloggers have signed up for Amazon’s Kindle blog publishing beta program. To paraphrase, the reasons blogging buddies are signing up for the Kindle program are all quite reasonable and run the gamut:
- To claim one’s blog feed as their own rightful property (you see, a rather large loophole was/is still? allowing just anybody to claim just any blog as their own and sign it up to the program. See TechCrunch’s article: “How The Kindle Now Lets You Steal This Blog” to learn more about this.)
- Make some income off of their blogging efforts.
- Gain access to a huge potential audience of readers.
- Just curious to see how it works.
But, I needn’t have completely despaired–a bit of banter on Twitter revealed that not everyone was jumping on board. Some individuals were joining me in my cautiously skeptical approach. Among the reasons for refraining from signing on that dotted line:
- Amazon’s murky Digital Publishing Distribution Agreement including open-ended phrasing such as: “You grant to us, throughout the term of this Agreement, a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide right and license to distribute Publications as described in this Agreement.” Sure, the “nonexclusive” part sounds good, but “irrevocable and worldwide” are rather broad terms. Oh, and this part is also a little daunting: “We reserve the right to change the terms of this Agreement at any time.”
- Keeping one’s blog free. (One blogger said, ” I don’t want some users to have to pay for it. I’d much rather optimise it for mobile use so people can read it on their phones.”)
- And, as expressed by Eoin Purcell: “the locking in of revenue splits.” In his post, Bloggers: Amazon will eat your lunch, Eoin states, “One of my major concern is that if bloggers agree to this completely uneven deal from Amazon now, it will persist. This will give Amazon an enviable position and allowing even their competitors to take hefty slices of the distribution chain value even while offering better terms than Amazon itself.”
Myself, I have all sorts of crazy ideas about the longer-term effects of bloggers jumping on board with Amazon’s blog publishing to Kindle program. I think Amazon stands to gain a lot more here than the rights to distribute blogger content. They are also:
- Gaining access to very valuable customer data, and
- Gaining access to high-quality, trusted reviews of products (e.g.: books, movies, music, water heaters, etc.) that they also happen to be selling on their world-wide web of a global marketplace.
With this new program, Amazon will have access to data on who is paying for blog content and what content they are paying for. That data is incredibly valuable. Even more so than mere web-based traffic analytics. Because, not only will they be able to track who the blog customers are and what they are interested in topic-wise, but they can use that data to make decisions about what products would most likely be the best bets to offer for sale in their big world-wide-web super store.
Add to that the potential to aggregate and repurpose blogger content (the high quality, trusted reviews I mentioned before) on Amazon product pages, and Amazon sure has a lot more going for them in this deal than a mere 70% of blog subscription sales via the Kindle. Amazon has already scored big points with their customer reviews, and they license some “professional” review content, but with the Kindle Publishing for Blog program, they will be in a position to aggregate and post the most-highly read blog reviews for books, movies, virtually any product they sell — AND they’ll be getting passive income from the sale of the content to Kindle to boot. Smart!
So, it is the proverbial double-edged sword. While bloggers will no doubt enjoy some immediate benefits, they will also be aiding Amazon’s efforts to be conquer the world, er I mean become even stronger in the online marketplace. Bloggers may not care so much right now, but in the future they might find themselves in the unenviable position of competing against Amazon for a share of that market. And, that my friends, is one heck of losing proposition.
Of course, bloggers are getting SOMEthing. Wider possible readership, and revenue (albeit not much) where they had none before.
So, I open up the floor to you — you Book Bloggers, you. What’s your 2 cents (i won’t take 70%, I promise) on this issue?
Have you signed up for Kindle’s Blog Publishing Program? Why, or why not
Also on the Web re: Amazon’s Kindle Blog Publishing:
HOW TO: Publish Your Blog on the Amazon Kindle (Mashable)
Bloggers: Amazon will eat your lunch (Eoin Purcell’s Blog )
Note to FOFTR (that’s “Friends of Follow the Reader” – acronyms have never been my strong point): Please join this week’s publishing discussion on Thursday May 21 from 4-5pm ET. We’ll be on Twitter at #followreader, a day ahead of our usual Friday timeslot because of the Memorial Day holiday in the U.S. This week’s topic is the connections between librarians/publishers/authors/readers. To follow to our discussion in real time, go to Twitter Search and type in #followreader. To join in the discussion, follow @charabbott and @katmeyer on Twitter, and include #followreader into your responses.