TWiR: Amazon Goes Indie

When I first started writing abou the convergence of the Web, entertainment, and culture for Wired back in 1999, I was a fierce believer in the power of technology to enable people to compete with corporations.

I was one of the first people writing about Napster and its battles with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and it was through the lens that I honed my thoughts on what was then called “disintermediation,” which was a fancy word for replacing the middle man in the sales channel.

That middle man: big labels.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to believe that the Web is the ultimate democratizing component for individual artists. John and I, for instance, have skipped traditional publishers because we want to control our IP.

When you do that, though, you are faced with some tough choices. Without a big corporation, for example, you have to build your own marketing and public relations infrastructure. (In other words, you have to re-intermediate.) All of that costs money, and for individual artists that is the sticking point for going indie. You have to pony up the money.

I bring all this up because of the debate happening about Amazon’s foray into the indie game market. We live in a time when big game companies seem intent on recycling titles, and developers like Richard Garriott and Chris Roberts have gone directly to games to fun projects.

The indie scene is poised for great things now because of the technology available to developers. However big companies like Amazon are going to create tools that make that re-intermediation easier…for a price.

The question for indies will be: How indie are you willing to go?

Every time you turn over a piece of building, e.g. sales channels, marketing, you re-create the very corporate model you were trying to avoid. Every indie developer will approach that problem differently, but every developer will have to answer that question.

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This newsletter is the outgrowth of The Downtown Writers Jam podcast. What that means is I will collect information about the authors I interview, book happenings around the Web, and other literary events that I find interesting. Without you, I'm just a crazy guy sitting in his office furiously screaming on the page for no reason.
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