What the Kindle Fire could mean for indie authors

For a device that hasn’t seen a single hands-on review, Amazon’s latest addition to the Kindle family, the Kindle Fire, is already setting records. It’s currently the number-one most gifted item in Amazon’s electronics rankings, closely followed in the number 2 and 3 spots by Amazon’s other new-kids on the block, the redesigned Kindle and the Kindle Touch.
The loss-leading $199 price-tag for the Kindle Fire is probably one of the primary reasons behind the massive pre-order rush reported by Amazon. Tech-magazines across the net (thanks to leaked sales figures) are estimating a staggering 2,000 pre-orders for the $199 Fire every hour. That figure is worth repeating: 2,000 pre-orders EVERY hour! Amazon will have sold more than 2.5 million of the 7-inch tablets before its November 15th release.
While the Kindle Fire has certainly received a lot of coverage, the press in general has spent most of their time comparing it to Apple’s iPad, a comparison which, in my opinion, is misplaced. There’s a very simple but fundamental difference between the two gadgets: the Kindle Fire is designed solely for the consumption of media. It’s essentially a very clever marketing gambit by Amazon, and one which will help assure them of a captive audience for years to come.
And that’s fantastic news for us authors. Why? Because we have a massive company effectively working for us; creating an expanding marketplace of customers who will continually do what they do best … consume.

If those earlier pre-release figures don’t impress you, think about this for a moment: eMarketer (a website that tracks digital commerce and marketing) estimated that “more than 20 million ereaders will be in consumer hands by the end of this year, reaching 8.7% of the US adult population. By 2012, 12% of adults will have a Kindle, Sony Reader, NOOK or similar device.” Those figures are only for the US, by the way. They don’t take into account the current, growing, markets in Europe, Australia, and eventually China and India.
Amazon’s announcement of the Fire’s release seems to have galvanized other manufacturers, too. Kobo and Samsung have all announced they are in the process of releasing or developing new 7-inch tablets. Barnes & Noble is also expected to announce a follow-up to the Nook Color and there are even rumors of an iPad Mini hitting the market sometime next year, despite the late Steve Jobs insistence that 7-inch tablets would be “dead on arrival”.
While a 7-inch tablet isn’t much use for anything more complicated than watching movies, playing the occasional game or surfing the net, it is the next best thing to a dedicated e-reader, and the more low-cost devices available to readers, the greater the market for our books will be.

So how does all of this help us scribblers?
Amazon is creating a stage where we, as indie authors, will have an almost equal billing with the big publishing houses. Conventional publishers are still geared to churning out what they know best, paper books. That’s going to leave a vacuum we can fill. It’s up to us to take advantage of the ever decreasing boundaries between us and our target audiences to deliver a steady stream of interesting, well developed, professional content. It’s an opportunity that many of us will be unlikely to see again in our lifetime; an industry reborn. A literary gold-rush, if you like. We just need to be prepared for it.
As Bob Dylan has been saying for many years now “The times they are a-changin’”. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

By Paul Jones

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