A key philosophy of technology companies seems to be –
Let other people do free work for you. Let them generate content that you take ownership of. Then leverage that content to make money and beat your competitors.
Amazon is demonstrating a modification of exactly this philosophy with Kindle Worlds.
Kindle Worlds = An Amazon initiative where any author can write books and stories based on existing book worlds, TV shows, movies, and other properties/worlds.
Please Note: What Amazon is doing isn’t bad, like what social networks do. Social Networks let users create content (user-generated content), claim ownership of it, and make money from it. At the same time, they prostitute out users’ personal details to make more money. So they commit two sins – take ownership of content and photos that users have created, sell users’ personal data to companies and advertisers without telling users.
Amazon isn’t doing anything of the sort – to the best of my knowledge. Amazon is simply using the philosophy of ‘let others work for you, for free’. Which, actually, is quite smart. Kindle Worlds is an illustration of this.
Kindle Strategy is heavily based on Exclusive Content
One of the tenets of Amazon’s Kindle philosophy has been to get ‘exclusive’ content –
- It offers ‘5 days free’ every 3 months to indie authors – In return for exclusivity.
- It offers money to authors for new and back list books – In return for exclusivity.
- It is striking up deals with authors via its publishing imprints – then offering those titles exclusively through Amazon.
It’s a fundamental pillar on which Amazon’s Kindle strategy is built.
There are however, three problems –
- It’s very expensive to get exclusive content. Whether it’s striking up exclusive deals, or it’s publishing books, it costs a lot of money and time and effort. Amazon, even after all its efforts, has perhaps a few hundred exclusive titles from big authors, a few hundred Amazon published exclusive titles, and a few hundred thousand indie authors titles. Apart from the indie author exclusives, nothing is large enough to be significant.
- Current methods of getting exclusive content are very slow. Negotiate an exclusive deal. Sign an author. Publish a book and promote it. What’s the shared weakness? All these methods are incredibly slow.
- Current methods of getting exclusive content aren’t scalable. To go from a few hundred exclusive deals with top authors to a few hundred thousand would take tens of thousands of people and decades. The fast rise in indie author exclusives, on the other hand, shows the power of automating things. There is power in letting authors generate exclusives themselves. There is power in automating processes and letting people use a self-serve model.
How can Amazon get enough exclusives given these three constraints?
The answer, rather interestingly, involves initiatives like Kindle Worlds.
Kindle Worlds is just a way to gets lots of Cheap, Exclusive Content
What is a Kindle Worlds title?
- A work based on an existing successful book or TV series. That means the ‘product market fit’ is proven and there is a captive audience.
- A work that is exclusive to Amazon. That means it adds to Amazon’s list of exclusives.
- A work for which authors can find a market with a higher chance of success. A proven market means a higher chance of making money. It’s a win-win for authors and Amazon.
From Amazon’s perspective, the most important thing isn’t money. It’s exclusivity of content related to proven markets.
What Amazon is hoping for, is –
- Lots of authors/people write very good works based in Existing, Proven Markets/Worlds. Enough content to attract users and become a factor.
- All of this stays exclusive to Amazon.
The second part is the real thing Amazon is after. How much does Amazon care about exclusivity and using Kindle Worlds content as a weapon?
Amazon cares an inordinate amount about Exclusivity and Control of ‘Kindle Worlds’ Content
Just read the rules (underlined part and bolding is added by us) –
Exclusivity Provision: Stories will be available in digital format exclusively on Amazon.com, Kindle devices, iOS, Android, and PC/Mac via our Kindle Free Reading apps. We hope to offer additional formats in the future.
Controlled by Amazon Provisions:
1) Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright.
2) Amazon Publishing will set the price for Kindle Worlds stories. Most will be priced from $0.99 through $3.99.
Those are some pretty strong restrictions. Makes you think twice about participating in Kindle Worlds.
However, it illustrates our point. Amazon cares an awful lot about getting –
- Lots of content based in Proven Markets/Proven Worlds.
- Exclusive rights to that content.
Basically, Amazon wants to build the YouTube+ of Books. It wants to leverage all this Kindle Worlds content to create a very strong competitive advantage (since it’s exclusive to Amazon).
Why YouTube+? Because it’s YouTube except users are uploading content based around PROVEN markets and PROVEN worlds.
Will Kindle Worlds result in lots of Exclusive High Quality Content for Amazon
I suspect Amazon is making the same mistake it tends to make very often – Sacrifice the Highest Chance of Success in return for Furthering Its Own Personal Motives.
Rather than –
- Create the absolute best product. Sell the absolute best devices. Make the best possible Kindle Worlds universe.
Amazon always tends to choose –
- Create a good product that serves Amazon’s needs. Sell good devices that also lead to customer acquisition. Make a Kindle Worlds universe that is focused around creating exclusive content for Amazon’s Kindle Store.
It’s a strategy that is fundamentally flawed.
Because Apple made it work only AFTER making an absolutely excellent device with very easy to use, well-polished software.
It’s a strategy that might still work.
Because Amazon has a LOT of customers and a lot of advantages.
Kindle Worlds shows that Amazon is worried
At some deep level, Amazon understands that by destroying the current Publishing Hierarchy, and by removing the existing Publishing Guarded Gates, it’s creating an almost-free market. A market that anyone can take over.
It’s now begun to think seriously about creating exclusive content and other competitive advantages that will allow it to prosper in this new, almost-free, highly competitive market.
The problem is that it’s incredibly difficult to build real barriers. Now it’s just authors and readers and everyone else is unnecessary. Kindle Worlds is a smart attempt to strengthen Amazon’s Mini-Gate of Exclusivity. Will it work? Perhaps. Perhaps not. It does, however, reveal a part of Amazon’s long-term intentions with Kindle books and a part of Amazon’s long-term Kindle strategy.