Amazon’s Siren Song to Content Creators is Getting Louder
Books have turned out to be Amazon’s equivalent of a clingy, high-maintenance college sweetheart: After years of price structure ping-pong with Apple and other publishers, plus some strong entries into other products (hello, Amazon Web Services) it’s easy to reach the conclusion that that Amazon may be fed up or at least bored with the book business. Selling printed books seems to really only be front-and-center until fresher and more progressive forms of content have come along, and matured.
And judging by a few recent unveilings from the company, its priorities may soon be just as much about creators as they are about consumers.
On June 7 Amazon made a bold entry into shaking up the filmmaking world with Amazon Storyteller, which catapults aspiring movie directors through the hoops that often bog down the production process. From uploaded scripts, Amazon Storyteller identifies the scenes, locations and characters from scene descriptions, and “casts” them from a library of thousands of characters, props and backgrounds.
This might come across as a one-off product that appeared through some kind of company “labs” division or incubator, but consider that Storyteller is only the newest member of the Amazon Studios family. This division of Amazon launched in 2010 as a gateway for independent filmmakers to get their work noticed and perhaps even produced. Since 2010 more than 14,000 movie scripts and 4,000 series pilot scripts have been submitted to Amazon Studios. There are currently 25 movies on the development slate and in the processes of being tested with audiences.
Amazon’s interest in the world of movie production is strengthened by its efforts in the distribution space. LoveFilm, which some have called the Netflix of Europe, was recently welcomed to the Amazon family. The streaming subscription service announced a major Disney content deal this week that will make it possible for users to stream popular flicks like Wall-E and The Dead Poets Society.
With all its big movie talk Amazon may seem to be shifting its focus away from the print world, but in fact, Amazon very much has digital publishing on the mind, too. Amazon Publisher has been streamlining the self publishing since spring 2012. Besides promising writers royalties of up to 70 percent on e-book sales and letting them become published authors for a fraction of the cost and logistical hurdles, Publisher also provides features for print and audio publication. And Amazon Publisher hit a major milestone this week when “The Hangman’s Daughter” became the first Publisher title to reach one million copies sold .
Tech academic Clay Shirky, author of Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers Into Collaborators, has said, “Communications tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.”
Likewise, enabling amateur filmmakers and writers to circulate through mainstream media is nothing new; just ask YouTube. Amazon isn’t reinventing the technological wheel, here but their focus on the self-published is significant. Amazon is flinging us into an era of self-everything; self-published, self-created, self-edited. While it’s unlikely that self-operated surgeries and self-built cars are next on Amazon’s agenda, it does speak volumes about how Amazon sees a world in which the line between consumer and creator is increasingly blurred.Image by Shutterstock