Reed Hastings of Netflix had once argued – correctly – that two types of people get on the internet for commerce. The e-bay types, looking for a good bargain on stuff that is even otherwise easily available and the amazon types, who are seeking convenience and things they cannot find elsewhere. That is, they are looking at the long-tail. For a company that understands the long tail really well, Amazon delivered another winner yesterday with Kindle Singles (By the way, Hastings added to his statement that if you cannot appeal to either of the two types that he mentions you might as well not bother about an e-commerce venture. Spot on)
Kindle Singles are the middle ground between a novel and a blog post. They are 10,000 to 30,000 word write-ups on a focused line of thought, priced between $0.00 – $4.99. Amazon seems to have a collaboration of sorts with TED to publish as Singles what is being called TED Books (interestingly, the curator of TED, Chris Anderson is the pioneer of the term long-tail, in his book by the same name). Like its consumers, Amazon’s sourcing idea also goes to the long-tail. Reports have it that the (erstwhile) retailing giant intends to directly reach out to authors, bypassing the entire publishing
ecosystems pseudo gatekeepers. This is great news for creators of content, so long as Amazon does not end up acting like the same publishers it is eliminating. Not only do authors get a chance to directly reach out to their readers, they can do it on a platform that has proven its mettle on the matter of long-tails. The e-book format suits that kind of length – and viewpoints – that Singles are expected to serve. It is easy on the readers too – and provides them with a way to segment their reading habits (Singles on short flights, full format books on long-hauls and so on).
At another level – is this the solution for newspapers and print magazines too? How many times have we gotten stuck with a magazine that really has just two or three insightful articles. How many times did we have to buy a full newspaper for reading just two great op-eds. Publications lock me in for long term subscriptions whereas what I would really like is to purchase just a piece of an article that I would like to read (socially reviewed and – this is for monetization – “appropriately” priced. That is, an article that twenty of my friends have “liked” is priced at about twice that of something “liked” by only ten. You get the drift)
Amazon singles puts the industry of the intellect firmly on the path of disintermediation, besides of course continuing to play to the consumer-values of readers. I strongly believe this will also change the way some adjacent industries work. After all, the app store idea was born out of the Amazon concept.