Selling Amazon shorts

reluctant-editors.jpgIf Apple can sell electronic downloads of songs with no packaging for 99c a pop why can’t Amazon sell short little chapbooks electronically, download only, for 49c? The answer is they can, of course.
A writer on a mailing list I’m on recently alerted me to this feature (no idea how long Amazon has been at it), mentioning his eleven-page piece called Letters from Resistant Editors. In his own words, “Like almost all writers, I’m well acquainted with rejection and I learned long ago to keep faring forward when I get a rejection slip or letter. But one such letter started my mind tinkering with letters that some editors might write. Here is the result: letters of rejection that might have been written to some well-known authors. If you are a writer of children’s stories, or a reader of them, how would you like to get letters like these?
“It looks interesting and for less than half a buck, why not take a look? Amazon describes its Shorts this way:

About Amazon Shorts:

  • Amazon Shorts are available exclusively at Amazon.com; you will not find them anywhere else.
  • Amazon Shorts are delivered electronically; there are no printed editions.
  • Amazon Shorts are yours forever – after purchase, you can read them anytime at Amazon.com. (They’ll be stored forever in Your Media Library in PDF, HTML, and text e-mail formats.)
  • You are free to print Amazon Shorts to read in hard copy form at your convenience.

For me, this is déjà vu all over again. Back around 1988 I was packaging short “e-books” for a startup called Mightywords that had spun off from Fatbrain. They had detected this exact market: items shorter than a book but still worth publishing. Something like free-floating magazine articles. They were pricing them too high (typically $5 or more) and they were targetting technical subjects, and mainly they were burning through a bunch of VC cash (which I did my best to spread around to the various starving writers I knew). It was too early, the business model was wrong, and so on, but that idea really wasn’t a bad one.
I’ll be watching this Amazon experiment to see how it pans out.

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