“Serious content restrictions” at Amazon’s fan fiction platform Kindle Worlds could be a reason why people are not creating as many works on the platform as elsewhere, a new study by Georgetown law professor Rebecca Tushnet said.
However Jeff Belle, v.p. of Amazon Publishing, has described early response to the site as "very encouraging", saying the company is particularly pleased by the quality of the material being produced.
Kindle Worlds allows people to write stories set within certain licensed worlds, such as Hugh Howey’s Silo Saga. When a reader buys a Kindle Worlds book, royalties are paid to both the author and the rightsholders of the world.
The study, by US law professor Rebecca Tushnet, compared Kindle Worlds to other fan fiction sites and found that Amazon’s total for all 24 worlds it had available in June, after a year of operation, showed 538 works had been created. By contrast, a general search using fanfiction.net’s “Just In” feature, showed Tushnet 100 stories posted across all categories in the hour before her search.
Meanwhile in June 2014 there were 46 works on Kindle Worlds for the "Pretty Little Liars" TV series, while there were nearly 6,000 for the same series on Fanfiction.net.
Tushnet’s study focused on how the creation of content was affected by licensing. She said that with “commercial exploitation comes a lack of creative freedom” and said Kindle Worlds’ “serious content restrictions” as well as restrictions on length and on age of participants could be a reason why less content was created. Content created on Kindle Worlds can only be purchased by people with Kindle accounts, which could also be restrictive.
Tushnet said that there was a place for paid options like Kindle Worlds, but added: “Noncommercial communities encourage more creators to enter, as well as more diversity of content, than commercial communities (where new artists are after all competitors). Licensing’s incentivising virtues come with costs, and so we should protect diverse sources of support for creativity – including voluntary expression, distinct from market exchange.”
But Amazon's Belle said "early response from licensors, writers and readers has been very encouraging".
He said: "Part of our mission at Kindle Worlds and Amazon Publishing is to act as a laboratory and develop new ways for writers to be creative, to connect with readers, and to earn money. We see Kindle Worlds as another option for all writers and readers, and a great opportunity to explore the stories and worlds they feel passionate about. Licensors have an opportunity to deeply engage with their enthusiastic fans, and earn new revenues from the worlds they created.
"We’re particularly pleased with the quality of the stories; one of our most important metrics is customer reviews, and the 600+ titles we’ve published to date have an average customer rating of more than 4 out of 5 stars. That’s important to us, because it indicates readers are really enjoying these stories."
Belle said Kindle Worlds planned to keep expanding its programme, "adding more worlds and welcoming more writers and readers.
Kindle Worlds’ authors receive 35% of net revenue for works over 10,000 words. For works between 5,000 words and 10,000 words, usually priced under $1, Amazon will pay the royalties for the world’s rights holder and pay authors a digital royalty of 20%.