Amazon’s new @author feature is a new addition to their Kindle-based social media effort. Currently in a limited beta release, the feature promises to create an even closer author to reader connection by allowing readers to send along questions for their favorite authors right from the Kindle itself. While it may turn out to be a mixed blessing for authors already being pulled in far more directions than ever before to get maximum exposure, many will undoubtedly welcome the opportunity.
In its ideal use case, the @author feature will be a source for frequent connections with curious readers that allows for one-on-one contact and gives readers a chance to resolve points of confusion by going directly to the source. At the same time, since questions are visible from the author’s Amazon page and answerable by anybody, this should help to foster a sense of community among readers. It seems a lot like Kindle authors are getting the best of both worlds. There are promotional opportunities from the comfort of their own homes when they are building an audience and an open forum for discussion when that audience gets large enough and involved enough that people start answering each other’s questions.
Obviously the advantage for Amazon in all of this is that the Kindle‘s integration into the communication process will give it that much more pull on customers and potential Kindle Direct Publishing authors. The user experience of the upcoming Kindle Tablet will also involve tighter connections than ever to the Amazon.com storefront, which makes this a further selling point for the new hardware, at least among readers, should they market it properly.
There are potential downsides with this, as with all new services. Because it is still a limited beta release, we have no real way of knowing what kind of moderation the @author question/answer system will enjoy upon release. As anybody who frequents the Amazon product forums can attest, open discussion on the site doesn’t always tend toward the most productive side of things. There is also a new set of authorial duties that will take some getting used to.
Since the ride of eBooks began, many have expressed concern that the increased emphasis on self publishing would result in the best marketers rising to the top rather than the best writers. In theory, after all, the role of the publishing house was to select the best of the best to bring readers only exactly what they want to read. In some ways, it’s a very important concern. Sure, you can now sell your own book without bothering to get an agent, editor, or publisher, but now you also have to complete every stage of development from the start with no large support structure.
Undoubtedly some amazing authors have fallen by the side of the road for exactly that reason. Overall though, with the sheer number of increasingly successful Kindle authors, we’ve seen an increase in the number of great writers being read. This will probably bring a little bit more hassle for some people, but it will also facilitate convenient conversation and have a net positive effect for any author smart enough to take advantage of it.