today unveiled a new Kindle feature, @author, that will let readers ask questions of authors while reading their books. Confused about the motivations of a particular character? Curious about the author’s literary influences? Need to clarify a particular step in that how-to book? Now you can ask questions from within the e-book itself.

As the name implies, the @author feature leverages Twitter. (And yes, Amazon has secured the @author Twitter account.) Here’s how the process works, as explained by Amazon’s Kindle Daily Post:

To ask one of these authors a question from a Kindle book, just highlight a passage using the 5-way controller, type “@author” followed by your question, and Share. We’ll tweet the question to the author and post it on the Author Page; you’ll automatically receive an email if the author answers your question. You can also ask a question from the Author Page of a participating author; look for the “Ask a question” link beneath the author’s biography or next to one of the author’s books if you want to ask a question specifically about that book.

Not exactly real-time, but interesting nonetheless, and a good example of the future potential of an electronic reading platform. Amazon has lined up about 15 authors to participate initially.

If only Mark Twain were still around for this one.

Thanks to Steve Rubel for pointing this out on Twitter.

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  • FrankCatalano

    Is this feature only enabled for authors who are alive? It’s not entirely far-fetched – Amazon says readers can answer other readers’ questions, too. Unless Amazon has remarkable reach with Twitter.

  • Guest

    Congratulations to Amazon on the launch!

  • Sally James

    Society for Technical Communication has an event – co-presented with NW Science Writers – on Sept. 20 at Bellevue College about e-publishing.

  • Anonymous

    Ok neat, the Kindle really is just cool like that.

  • Anonymous

    Would love to take part in this with my stories, Amazon. Open this up to all authors ASAP, please.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think this feature will see wide adoption as it places too great of a burden on the reader in order to use it (e.g. knowledge of highlighting feature, Twitter account, specific syntax, etc).

    Early results support this conclusion. Steve Johnson only has 4 questions for his book “Where Good Ideas Come From” in the past 24 hours.

  • Kathysierra

    Hmmm. Mixed feelings about this. Anyone with a reasonably popular how-to book on a challenging technical topic struggles as it is to redirect questions to places where questions can be answered by someone *other* than the author. This readers-ask-writers has to be one of the least scalable ideas I can imagine. However, readers-asking-community would be wonderful.

    At many tech support forums where books are discusses, participants develop their own conventions for indicating which book, which edition, which page (or code example, etc.) and all of that could become much simpler. Or for doing limited promotions like, “ask the author TODAY”.

    But most authors for whom this would be overwhelming still don’t make enough money to hire, say, an assistant who could field some of the questions, and most publishers would provide support only for the most successful books/authors. I just don’t see this as becoming something realistic for most book/author scenarios. But that is from the author’s perspective. As a reader, I would love the opportunity.

  • Angela K Roe

    Oh that is seriously cool!

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