I was very excited to hear about the new Kindle Serials program that Amazon announced last month. Amazon has a way of carving out new marketplaces for digital content, and though serials are nothing new, the Kindle Serials program brings some new life to the form.
Here are just a few initial thoughts:
The new program got lots of attention during and just after the Amazon press conference on September 6, but one thing that I haven’t seen written up is the very low price point — at least with the serials that the program launched with, you pay just $1.99 upfront and you get ALL installments of the serial novel delivered as they come available. I realize this is an introductory price, but if you start out low, it’s tough to then attempt to set a higher price standard later on. Naturally, people respond positively to lower pricing, and go negative if prices start to climb.
And the very low-price point, again, while great for customers, is going to make it difficult to develop a true serials business. The percentages just aren’t going to make much sense. I get the low pricing for the short-form (Kindle Singles), but this is installment-based short-form writing that adds up to a long-form piece. It makes sense to price it closer to a full-length work.
Paying up front for all installments makes it much easier for consumers — they don’t have to remember to come back when new installments become available, as they will just get delivered to the purchaser’s device, slotted right into the serialized ebook. But it takes away the option of incremental payments for each new chapter. There’s no revenue incentive to keep a serial going — for the writer or publisher. It actually makes sense to wrap it up fairly quickly. That’s too bad because part of the fun of the serial form is to draw out the experience.
Another aspect that has come up with the Kindle Serials program is that writers of serials can interact with and take into account fan reactions, comments and suggestions as they work their way through the writing process. Amazon has said they will use the forums on the product pages to encourage this. The problem is Amazon’s forums are pretty lacking in terms of true online community. More likely, writers will be able to leverage their own online platform — most likely Twitter and Facebook — to foster this kind of writer/reader interaction.
Perhaps most of all, Amazon’s full circle ecosystem for publishing and delivering digital content direct to consumers gives it clear advantages. Technically, publishing a serial is pretty easy — you can do it on a website, in a stand-alone app, in a print magazine — but being able to seamlessly deliver content to a device that millions of people are already buying and reading content on is very clearly one of the most effective ways to establish a viable serial program.
All this being said, it’s fantastic to see these new pockets in the marketplace for digital content opening up. Readers obviously benefit from the options, and writers have new ways to present and publish content.