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Amazon Tries Its Hand At More Original (And Crowdsourced) Content With Blackburn Burrow Digital Comic

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Amazon, like its competitor Netflix, has been making some moves to increase the amount of exclusive, original content under its brand. Today it took one more step in that direction with the news that Amazon Studios will be launching its first self-commissioned digital comic, a version of the Blackburn Burrow Civil War story. The first copy is now free in the Kindle store.

Originally a screenplay from Jay Levy from December 2010, the story is also being used by Amazon to try something else: more crowdsourced creation. The company says that the idea to launch the digital comic comes out of its own community feedback, which is so essential to Amazon’s whole business model in the form of user reviews, and is now being introduced around the work coming out of Amazon Studios. The project, it says, will be used to continue to gather additional feedback to decide whether it should then develop the Levy screenplay into a full motion picture, which would also be developed by Amazon Studios.

This means that Amazon will be able to test how many people will put their money where their mouths are when it comes to consuming the stuff they say they would like to consume. (And it also helps it drum up some PR for the brand, giving them a headstart on the whole franchise opportunity.)

The news comes at the same time that Amazon is rolling out a series of new tablets and e-readers under its Kindle brand (including the Kindle Fire HD, which we reviewed yesterday). This is the first time that the Fire tablets will be making their way outside of the U.S., although it looks like the Blackburn Burrow content will for now only be in English.

It also comes at a relatively high water time for digital comics, which have been given a big boost from the rise in popularity of tablets. In July, digital comic book aggregator and storefront ComiXology said it had surpassed 75 million downloads.

Amazon Studios is commissioning the Blackburn Burrow digital comic, which will be released in installations over the next four months, from 12 Gauge Comics. 12 Gauge is working with Ron Marz (a big name in comics, penning the copy for titles like Green Lantern and Batman/Aliens) and Matthew Dow Smith (the big-name illustrator behind Doctor WhoX-Men Icons, and more) to “shape the story and look” of the comic.

And it looks like it will be the beginning of a longer-term testing format for Amazon. “Beyond entertaining lots of comic fans, we see value in digital comics as a new way to test screenplays and learn more about fan engagement,” Roy Price, director of Amazon Studios, said in a statement.

Like other projects that come out of Amazon Studios, the company is going to keep the crowdsourced element strong it continues to produce the series. With each new issue of Blackburn Burrow, Amazon will release a poll to let readers give more feedback and comments on the work.

Full release below.

Amazon Studios Turns Supernatural Horror Tale “Blackburn Burrow” into Digital Comic to Test Story with Audiences
SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Sep. 12, 2012– (NASDAQ: AMZN) — Amazon Studios, the original content arm of Amazon.com, Inc., is introducing an all-new digital comic book today – Blackburn Burrow, a story set in Civil War America where supernatural horrors are infesting a small Appalachian town in Northern Georgia. Blackburn Burrow first came to Amazon Studios in the form of a feature film screenplay from writer Jay Levy. Community feedback, gathered from Amazon Studios’ crowdsourcing model, triggered the idea for the popular project to be adapted into a digital comic that would be shared with audiences for feedback and tested for viability as a major motion picture.

The Blackburn Burrow digital comic looks and reads like a traditional book and is available for free through a variety of sites and platforms including top digital comic provider Graphicly, as well as AmazonStudios.com, Amazon Studios Facebook page and the Kindle Store. For more information on how to get the comic, visit http://www.amazonstudios.com or search for Blackburn Burrow in the Kindle Store.

Amazon Studios’ Blackburn Burrow digital comic book is produced by 12 Gauge Comics, which teamed with renowned comics writer Ron Marz (Silver Surfer, Green Lantern, Marvel vs. DC, Batman/Aliens) and veteran illustrator Matthew Dow Smith (Doctor Who, X-Men Icons, Mirror’s Edge, Day of Judgment) to shape the story and look of the comic.

“This is a very exciting new venture for Amazon Studios. Beyond entertaining lots of comic fans, we see value in digital comics as a new way to test screenplays and learn more about fan engagement,” said Roy Price, Director of Amazon Studios. “The 12 Gauge team has done beautiful work on the Blackburn Burrow digital comic and we are thrilled to share it with audiences to see how they react to the story of Blackburn Burrow.”

Like movie and episodic series projects that exist within Amazon Studios, the public will have the opportunity to provide feedback and direction on Blackburn Burrow as the story continues to unfold. The entire Blackburn Burrow comic will be released over a period of four months with new issues coming out every four weeks. Each release will be accompanied by a poll (www.blackburnburrowsurvey.com) related to content in that issue that encourages readers to give feedback and provide comments.

About Blackburn Burrow

In Blackburn Burrow, Mister is a legendary fighter rumored to take on the strange and supernatural. When a Union general requests his help in investigating the disappearance of a group of his soldiers from a small town in the South, Mister initially declines, refusing to get involved in the politics between the North and the South. Mister’s interest, however, is piqued when the last contact with these soldiers referenced the walking dead and a man Mister has been tracking all his life, the man who brought him into this world. Mister teams with Merrin, a young female survivor, to stop an ancient uprising and discover the family secret that connects his past to the small town of Blackburn Burrow.

About Amazon Studios

Amazon Studios is Amazon’s content development division that uses audience feedback to develop great, original entertainment customers will love. Since its launch in November 2010, more than 10,000 movie scripts and 1,800 series pilot scripts have been submitted to Amazon Studios. Currently, 17 film projects and nine series are in development. For more information about Amazon Studios, visit http://studios.amazon.com.

About Amazon.com

Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), a Fortune 500 company based in Seattle, opened on the World Wide Web in July 1995 and today offers Earth’s Biggest Selection. Amazon.com, Inc. seeks to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices. Amazon.com and other sellers offer millions of unique new, refurbished and used items in categories such as Books; Movies, Music & Games; Digital Downloads; Electronics & Computers; Home & Garden; Toys, Kids & Baby; Grocery; Apparel, Shoes & Jewelry; Health & Beauty; Sports & Outdoors; and Tools, Auto & Industrial. Amazon Web Services provides Amazon’s developer customers with access to in-the-cloud infrastructure services based on Amazon’s own back-end technology platform, which developers can use to enable virtually any type of business. Kindle Paperwhite is the most-advanced e-reader ever constructed with 62% more pixels and 25% increased contrast, a patented built-in front light for reading in all lighting conditions, extra-long battery life, and a thin and light design. The new latest generation Kindle, the lightest and smallest Kindle, now features new, improved fonts and faster page turns. Kindle Fire HD features a stunning custom high-definition display, exclusive Dolby audio with dual stereo speakers, high-end, laptop-grade Wi-Fi with dual-band support and dual-antennas/MIMO for 40% faster throughput than other tablets, enough storage for HD content, and the latest generation processor and graphics engine—and it is available in two display sizes—7” and 8.9”. The all-new Kindle Fire features a faster processor for 40% faster performance, twice the memory, and longer battery life.