Amazon and Enhancement

Is Amazon, with an initiative launched in late April called The Backstory, entering the business of enhanced publishing, as suggested in a TechCrunch story? That story, pasted below, notes that the online retailer is adding a range of features to publications it is releasing in e-book format, including author interviews, podcasts and general background information related to the main publication. These are often components of an enhanced publication, and are also found in some of the SURF projects associated with enhancing scholarship. But that is about where the similarity ends. Amazon is not concerned about interrelating the various components – the text, the interviews, background. These elements are instead seen as promotional fluff rather than intertwined elements at understanding the argument of an author. A bookstore, even one as all-encompassing as Amazon, is not concerned with contributing to the central objectives of scholarship and the enhancement of scholarly publications by interlinking the threads of such an enterprise. So, there is certainly reason to be curious about what this book retailer does, but there is no basis for shouting halieua at what is little more than an initiative to sell more products….

The TechCrunch story on Backstory

Amazon has launched a new content hub for its Books area, called The Backstory. The content destination includes interviews with authors, guest reviews, authors’ favorite playlists, recipes, podcasts, essays and more.

Amazon is also debuting “Author Interviews@Amazon,” as part of the launch which is a new author interview series. Author Interviews@Amazon launches with five video interviews, including celebrity chef Tom Douglas, Joshua Foer, young adult authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, and Gossip Girl producer John Stephens. Amazon says that new author interviews will be announced via the Amazon.com Books Facebook page and on Omnivoracious.com, the Amazon.com Books blog. Customers will be able to post questions on these pages for visiting authors that will be incorporated into each interview.

WHat’s interesting about The Backstory is that Amazon is clearly trying to become more than just a destination to buy books. By providing features like Author video interviews Amazon is bringing high-quality content to its platform, alongside e-commerce. And via the ties with Facebook and the company’s blog, Amazon aims to create a community around its content. I’m curious if Amazon will extend this strategy to other e-commerce verticals (i.e. fashion, gadgets).