Amazon Wants You to ‘Scout’ the Next Big Author

28 Oct 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

Amazon wants readers to pick what books will be published through Kindle Scout.

It’s easily the most surprising reinvention of the year – Amazon has somehow taken the most predictable, boring gadget ever invented, the e-reader, and ‘brought sexy back’.SEATTLE, Oct 27, 2014 (BUSINESS WIRE) — AMZN, +0.99% —Beginning today, readers can visit Kindle Scout, Amazon’s new reader-powered publishing program, to preview excerpts from unreleased books, help decide which will get published and receive free books.Amazon has open up voting in its new crowdsourced publishing program which lets readers have a say in which books get the e-commerce giant’s backing.

Despite its decidedly unfriendly-to-authors feud with a major publishing company, Amazon is touting a new program that provides an outlet for hopeful authors, while letting readers maybe, sort-of decide who’s worthy of being published. Last years Kindle Paperwhite was small, yet sturdy, and came packed with useful features such as the ability to jump to another part of a book without losing your place. Sales of the gizmos have flatlined for years after everyone realised that all e-readers were basically the same – but Voyage could be the ‘iPhone moment’ for the gadgets.

As a thank you from Kindle Scout and the author, readers who nominated the published book receive a free, full-length Kindle edition one week before the book’s official release date. “Amazon customers are passionate readers who have long influenced which books become breakout best sellers,” said Russ Grandinetti, Senior Vice President of Kindle. “With the launch of Kindle Scout, readers now have an even more direct say in what gets published and can get free books and discover new favorite authors in the process.” With the help of readers, Kindle Scout shortens the time it takes to be selected for publication—the entire process from submission to selection takes 45 days or less. On Monday, Amazon officially opened voting on Kindle Scout, an area where writers pitch what their prospective book would be about and then readers vote to pick the best one. The screen is frontlit so it looks white, even in bright sunlight – but the lights don’t shine from behind the text, which spares you the headaches you get from reading on iPad. Publishing contracts are offered through Kindle Press and include a 5-year renewable term, advance of $1,500, a 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing. Amazon.com Inc. builds on that with the Kindle Voyage, a device that now adjusts to ambient lighting conditions and lets you turn pages without lifting your finger.

It’s the first of the gadgets which adjusts automatically to surrounding light, so you never need to sit fiddling with the lighting settings just because someone flipped the light on. The text is also lightyears ahead of any rival – including Amazon’s previous efforts – in terms of readability, with a screen that offers text nearly as smooth as printed paper. We also hope they’ll have a lot of fun getting to know authors and their work.” “For me, Kindle Scout is a potential way to get my work into the hands of new readers,” said author Steve Gannon, who submitted his book to Kindle Scout. “As an author who has self-published and self-promoted six novels, I view it as a chance to partner with Amazon on my latest novel, L.A. Readers will now get to read excerpts of books in the categories of Romance, Science Fiction, and Mystery/Thriller/Suspense and decide which ones make it to the next stage, which includes some funding help from Amazon. It’s good enough that you can comfortably read comics or magazines on it – albeit in black-and-white – and the greyscale images look as sharp as newspaper pages.

Amazon says it ultimately holds all the decision-making power. “Nominations give us an idea of which books readers think are great; the rest is up to the Kindle Scout team who then reviews books for potential publication,” Amazon says on the new Kindle Scout page. Taken individually, the tweaks here – the 300 pixels-per-inch screen resolution, which allows for fonts that look just like the printed word, the starched white of the screen, the ultra-slim body – isn’t much. The company is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking.

Rather than prodding aimlessly at a second-rate touchscreen, hoping that the page will turn, there are pressure sensitive bumpers at the side which you push down on to flip the page. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime, Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Fire phone, Fire tablets, and Fire TV are some of the products and services pioneered by Amazon. Since people could just get their whole extended families on board, Amazon will take the final decision into their hands, but voters will definitely influence which books make it into their final consideration. If an author’s book is selected for publication by Kindle Press, they’ll receive a five-year exclusive contract, a $1,500 advance, 50 percent e-book royalties and featured marketing by Amazon. Over the course of several months the retailer pulled preorders for several Hachette-published authors and stopped offering discounts as a way to allegedly discourage consumers from buying the books.

Amazon offers plenty of supplemental materials, including passages that other Kindle readers have collectively highlighted and an X-Ray feature with more information on characters, places and terms. That might seem like an odd thing to put so high on a list of improvements, but the Paperwhite’s glass has this grainy, almost pebbly texture that literally rubs me the wrong way. Back in September, Authors United – a group made up affected authors – said that Amazon’s tactics have driven down Hachette authors’ sales with the retailer by at least 50%, and in some cases as much as 90%. I viscerally dislike the way it feels under my thumb or fingertip when I stroke the glass to turn a page or touch the screen to call up a menu or a definition. Amazon embedded four surface-mount buttons (Amazon calls them PagePress sensors) on the right and left bezels that make turning pages even easier: A slight squeeze on the vertical lines on either side of the bezel advance pages, and the same action on the dots above those lines reverse pages.

In addition to the obvious visual cue of the page refreshing, the Voyage provides a bit of haptic feedback when you’ve applied enough pressure to effect a page turn. I can squeeze the page-forward button without moving my thumb at all, and I need to slide it up just about an inch to reach the less-frequently used page-back buttons. One thing I should point out, especially for people like me who don’t take enough time to read a user manual: You need to press down slightly on the buttons to make them work. Amazon moved the power button to the back of the device, which makes it easier to find and manipulate than the tiny button that’s on the bottom of the Paperwhite. The cover is brilliant, though, consisting of a tray with strong magnets that hold the Voyage it in a very tight grip (the e-reader’s rear panel is fabricated from magnesium), and a thick flap that protects its display.

A set of strong magnets in the flap holds it securely to the Voyage’s front bezel when closed, and to the magnesium back when you flip it over the top to read. Third parties are offering less-expensive covers, which I haven’t reviewed, and I imagine the price of Amazon’s covers will drop as the Voyage’s newness wears off (although that could be a while. Comparing versions with Amazon’s “Special Offers” (ads that pop up when you’re not reading), the delta between the $79 Kindle and the $119 Kindle Paperwhite is $40. I’ve always scoffed at the idea of paying so much more to get 3G connectivity; but now that I’ve experienced it with the Voyage, it’s pretty easy to want. Having said that, I think the Paperwhite still delivers the better price-to-performance ratio both for someone buying an e-reader for the first time, and for someone upgrading from a stock Kindle.

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