Why The Kindle Hasn’t Changed Books, and Other Slightly Ridiculous Questions
Over on Wired David Piece asks the same slightly ridiculous question outside pundits ask every so often: why Amazon has failed to change books as an art form as much as it has changed the book market.
If Amazon wanted to, it could with a single act bring a new form of book into being. That’s because Amazon has more or less vertically integrated the entire book industry within its walls, building a complete reading universe of its own making. Lots of authors now write books especially for Amazon, which readers find on Kindle Unlimited and Prime Reading, read on their phone and tablet, listen to through Audible or your Echo, and then talk about on Goodreads. Amazon has tools that help you write your book, format the manuscript, design the cover, file the right metadata, publish to the right places, and get paid the right amount. Want to make a comic book, a kids' book, or a textbook instead? Amazon can help there too.
Over the years Amazon has tried to experiment with form a bit, with the not-quite-book-length Kindle Singles and the periodically-delivered Kindle Serials. If you look carefully, there are even a few Choose Your Own Adventure-type books lurking in the store as well, but they’re third-rate romance and fantasy stories you’ve never heard of. And Amazon’s executives express an interest in continuing to push the medium forward in new and interesting ways.
But so far, Amazon’s contributions have stayed on the margins.
The thing is, Amazon has invented new-ish forms of books: The Kindle apps support audio and video embedded in an ebook, and last year Amazon also debuted the Kindle in Motion format.
So Amazon has invented the new format; it’s just that the new stuff never took off (judging by the many failed enhanced ebook startups, it is probably because consumers don’t want it).
The thing that many outsiders keep missing is that Amazon won the ebook market by giving consumers exactly the same stories they were already reading, only in a new package. Yes, Amazon invested huge sums in making the Kindle platform friction-free, but when you come down to it the content being delivered was the same as before – the only change was the medium it was delivered on.
And that is why it succeeded where previous attempts faltered. Amazon gave consumers the content they already wanted, only on a new medium that let readers carry hundred of books at a time.
And yet here we have David asking Amazon didn’t invent a new form of books.
Well, Amazon did, but even so just asking the question is slightly absurd. It is like if Apple had taken the music market from vinyl to Mp3s, only to be asked why they didn’t invent a new form of music which mixed in, I don’t know, tactile sensations.
I am not understating the case.
What David is really asking in his post is why Amazon, as a deliverer of an existing form of art, has failed to invent a new form of art.
The new form of books that David asks for aren’t the same art form as has been produced over the past millennia, and yet he wants to know why Amazon hasn’t invented them.
Do you see how ridiculous that sounds?