Read Your Mind: Amazon's @Author Feature Brings Readers and Writers Together On Twitter

By Trevor Eischen | September 13, 2011


E-book and tablet technology have revolutionized the way we read books. Instead of lugging around thick volumes, it’s now possible to store thousands of works on one small device. Now e-books are about to further change the industry in a very unique way.

Amazon’s Kindle has released a beta version of its app, @author, that allows readers to tweet questions to an author’s Twitter account and Amazon author page. The author, as well as his or her followers, can respond to tweeted questions. It’s like a book club, except there are thousands of members, the author participates and there’s not as much wine.

The @author app is attempting to change the way readers engage with books. English professors can pick the minds of living literary masters to prepare for curricula. Avid crime novel readers can point out loopholes in a mystery writer’s story. Instructional manual can address readers’ questions.

Kindle users first select the text, type @author and then write their question. Kindle allows only 100-character questions, but Amazon’s author pages facilitate lengthier inquiries.

The revolutionary concept of @author is the shortened divide between reader and writer. Publishing companies dictate the flow of an author’s content but Amazon has now charted a new course. Via @author, authors can self-market, expand readership and continue the writing process after publication. 

Megan Garber of Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab suggests that the concept of book writing is evolving. Before Kindle, authors would submit a final draft and leave the rest to publishers.

Garber expains Amazon is encouraging, in other words, questions whose answers aren’t just supplemental to the books they address, but also literally extensive to them. 

Mathew Ingram of Bloomberg Businessweek argues @author is just another step toward disintermediating publishers. In addition to @author, Amazon also provides a service for writers to self-publish “their own e-books and keep up to 70 percent of the proceeds (provided the book sells for $4.99 or more).”

Case in point: Amanda Hocking self-published eight of her books through Kindle and has sold 185,000 copies. She’s become a heroine to anti-establishment writers and has left publishers quivering.

So will authors use @author?

Associate Editor Lauren Indvik for Mashable says the technology isn’t anything special.

“Amazon isn’t really introducing anything new here; the authors in the program are already actively engaged with promoting their books and interacting with their fans through mediums like Twitter.”

In fact, tweets overwhelm the accounts of best-selling authors. One of the 16 @author bloggers, Susan Orlean, has 181,638 twitter followers. I doubt Orlean will spend less time writing and more tweeting. She tweeted nearly 40 times yesterday, but the conversation addressed food, clucking chickens and her cat.

We won’t know @author’s impact until more readers and writers sign up. It could change the interaction between readers and writers, but it also could alter a writer’s process. If authors receive feedback on DRAFTS OF their stories, they might consider these things too heavily when writing their next manuscript. 

Will I tweet @author any time soon? Mostly likely not. I don’t read Kindle books by the @author users. Come to think of it, the books I’m currently reading are from authors who, in addition to not having Twitter accounts, are dead.