Kindle Vella

A guide for authors who are looking to expand their brand and how we handle this as publishers. Lets get into it. Kindle Vella is a relatively newish thing released from Amazon, the powerhouse of indie printing/publishing. Although, they tried this type of platform before, this launch seems to have a few differences. They built significant infrastructure on how to display episodes building it into the Kindle App platform. This allows a much broader audience access to the episodes as well as uses Kindle in a way that should have been one that was looked into as a stronger integration method than the browser based Amazon shopping app. However, I still find some readers and users confused by Kindle. Kindle is not just the reader, the Kindle reader was an extension of the platform but it isn’t what the platform really is. Kindle itself is a digital based asset distribution platform that shares/displays digital products to users via an app. The device (the Kindle Reader and variations) simply allowed users to have a simple tablet that had a single or limited function device. It appealed to a group of people that wanted a digital device but didn’t want to pay the heavy price of an iPhone or Android or have less function than a smart phone.

The family of products had functional and practical use for people that wanted to carry books wherever they went without having to have a backpack: Kindle Product Family. The devices could load ebooks and other digital products quickly and provide a level of engagement in reading for both adults and children as there are certain functions in there that were not (at least early on), adopted by other devices. For example in Kindle you could make notes, highlight, bookmark, excerpt and keep a fairly good collection of study marks that could be used by students. It also kept where the reader was in terms of what technology advancement would mean for literature. Many avoided this type of transition fearing that physical copies would be magically evaporated from our culture. This turned out not to be true. In fact over the years its almost equal in terms of physical books vs digital books in terms of revenue and also readership.

Print books still out pace the digital format and still are preferred by most demographics. This is likely due to the fact that Print is easier to get a hold of and is not bound to a device. You can check out a book as much as you want from the library but you can’t do that with digital.

You can buy digital books that you will retain the rights to read as long as you can access the device or account that you purchased it on, however it is limited when it comes to lending. Most libraries cap a digital file for anywhere from 7 days to 14 days depending. 

This does restrict access to digital books to those that may not have a device to access them or whom rely on accessibility for books from more public institutions. There is also resistance to the removal of print because it is somewhat an art form that is conjoined with human civilization. 

Statistics

Pew Rexearch: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/25/one-in-five-americans-now-listen-to-audiobooks/ft_19-09-25_bookreadingformats_print-books-more-popular-e-books-audiobooks/

Some people almost make print the ‘holy grail’ that should be preserved at all costs. This fervent protection for literary works which is reasonable due to the history of potential destruction of invaluable materials is understandable. Plus digital has its own issues. It relies on infrastructure investments in internet, storage and other technologies that are vulnerable.

However when you look at audiobooks, the numbers increase. This is because it reduces a barrier that is formed in both print and digital. Now readers do not have to have a large lexicon of language or linguistics to understand any subject.

The ability to hear a book removes part of the issue in accessible literature for not only visually impaired populations but those that have reading or learning disabilities. It’s actually a form that allows anyone with access a wealth of information that they may have not ever been exposed to. Audiobooks are accessible to any device and be able to be listened to almost at an unlimited number of times.

There seems little restrictions on how many plays you can do on an audiobook and not all libraries lend these titles so lending may or may not be available and may or may not be restricted to a typical lending time.

Kindle Vella swooped in when the popularity of episodic stories took of in Japan. The idea is not that radical when you think about the technology expansions and the statistics above, improving literacy seems to be a needed area of improvement in North America. The popularity of anime and expansion of world literature to being more accessible to a multitude of people, allowed an in for Amazon to match what other platforms were doing.

Appealing to the ‘content’ driven culture and the culture of younger readers who are more robust in their need to read. Younger generations are not bound to classics, are not just familiar with American or Canadian literature or primarily English/White western culture, they have expanded the reader circle to embrace writers that were known in the less common regions and took them as a challenge to expand both their own information and also to embrace a growing trend toward expanding our global human culture. 

Although many of these writers were known to their own communities, the fact that more students and young readers are finding more books that reflect the multicultural society that has existed for a long time in the background is encouraging and Vella aligns itself on both of those fronts. It appeals to the short content needs (in that it is released by episode which are shorter than most chapters in a standard novel). It also competes with Wattpad and Radish to encourage a reader community. This is helpful for authors who perhaps don’t have a firm standing in the community yet or may just want to build a community prior to doing a full novel. It’s also potentially a good side income if you can advertise yourself well and gain a following. 

As a publisher, I can see sides of this platform that might help authors who want to have an offshoot of their writing that is perhaps smaller than their royalties. This might be a good platform for people that are trying out a story or are just getting established as a writer.

We in house, do not offer to set up Vella for authors on the fact that it is way to complex to run it for other people other than the writer linked to the project and don’t have an effective way to cut out royalties for set up.

As a publisher, I encourage authors to do what’s best for them in terms of what can and will achieve a side income while working on traditional projects. I don’t see Vella as a threat, but more an appeal to readers who might be inaccessible to some of us. The young reader market is massive and is something that should be looked at in terms of expanding our own market and writing forms. However, I can tell you that from a publishing standpoint, authors who submit work to a publisher that was on Vella or sold on Vella likely will run into a straight forward no on traditional publishing.

So how does one get to Vella? If your looking to publish on Vella, you just need a KDP account and that’s pretty much it. Vella has to be a unique piece of writing that was created by you (the author) and has not been printed or posted in any form online/offline. Amazon does check, so even trying to get past this step will result in failure. It will require a thumbnail image to be the ‘cover’ which they provide dimensions on. Uploading is easy and they make the process for writing fairly straightforward. The writer is built into the platform, so you can simply write your episode and hit publish and voila its up in the app. Here is what the readers see inside the Kindle App.

Competitors to Vella

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Content Written by Authors of The Three Little Sisters is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license.

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