Friday, September 2, 2011

Questioning Authors

If you could ask your favorite author any question just by highlighting a section of their ebook and sending them a Tweet straight from your Kindle...what would you ask?

That is what Amazon wants to know. Their newest program, @Author, features sixteen current authors who will, in fact, answer questions posed to them by readers through their Kindles.

There are some caveats, naturally: questions must be 100 characters or less, and yes, you have to have both a Kindle and a Twitter account for this to work. But those seem like fairly modest hurdles in this day and age; if you read ebooks, chances are good you have a Kindle, and likely have a Twitter (or aren't afraid to set one up). And if anything typifies this age of short attention spans, thinking in 100 characters would be it. (That last sentence was 99 characters including spaces, incidentally).

But what is really new and interesting about this program is not the ability to ask your favorite author a short question electronically. That is far from new. No, the innovative aspect of this is the immediacy of its accessibility. By making it easier than ever for readers and authors to engage one another, epublishing as a whole becomes a different and far more compelling experience than reading the same book in dead-plant-matter ("treebook") form. Remember when seeing a movie in the theater was a much more immersive experience than on a grainy VHS tape at home? As home entertainment technology advanced, the movie theater experience seemed less and less impressive - until the advent of 3D, which gave the movie-going public a reason to flock to theaters again. Notice how rapidly we've seen the signs of in-home 3D televisions coming our way!

Amazon is testing the epub waters with just that kind of strategy. The content is there, the technology is there, but the biggest question yet remains: if you could ask your favorite author a short question...would that affect your decision to buy their ebooks over those of other authors, and a Kindle over other e-readers? Amazon is betting it will.

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