reKiosk: A New Digital Marketplace

market
Aziz and Darya Isham. Aziz, who has long worked in digital publishing, pitched the idea to his sister, Darya. Darya previously managed investor relations at a hedge fund before pursuing a graduate degree at Columbia in quantitative methods and social sciences. If you are a fan of “old books about strange places” and “difficult music,” you might want to stop by Aziz’s kiosk, filed under “Theory”.

Since reKiosk went live three weeks ago, Aziz and Darya Isham, the brother-sister team behind the site, have been at the center of a whirlwind of attention.

reKiosk is a network of digital storefronts (or “kiosks”) where anyone can sell digital media, with little to no start-up cost. Writers and musicians can sell their own work, and publishers and record labels can sell their catalogs. However, you don’t have to be an artist or distributor to use reKiosk. Bloggers, critics, fans, even you or I, can sell other people’s digital media. If you see an eBook or music file you like on the site, you can add it to your store (“reKiosk” it), and then get a cut when it sells.

Of course, multimedia online retailers are not a new concept. reKiosk riffs on sites like Amazon and iTunes, but adds a heavy dose of quirk and indie ideals. reKiosk uses patterns of consumption that are already in place—and this, perhaps, is why it is catching on so quickly. Right before I sat down with the Isham siblings, the editor of Tin House contacted them to express his enthusiasm for their idea. By the following Monday, Tin House had made reKiosk the only ecommerce retailer carrying their digital version.

What is new, however, is the kiosk system. As with similar sites, 70% of each sale goes to the creator of the product. Unlike Amazon and iTunes, however, where the remaining 30% goes to the site, with reKiosk, only 5% is taken by the site. The last 25% is pocketed by the kiosk owner, whoever that might be—writer, musician, label, you, or me.

Users can browse kiosks through an extensive dropdown menu. The menu includes categories such as mystery, jazz, or political, but also several less obvious ones: theory, post modern, and aggressive. (This last category houses one kiosk, run by user rockitout. The kiosk owner’s earnest tagline: “I love all things that rock. And I want to share that rock with you.”)

If, somehow, a category has been overlooked, kiosk owners can use a contact form to have it added. “It’s an interactive platform,” says Miss Isham. “That’s the whole point.” The site is meant to grow organically, responding to users’ needs.

reKiosk’s quirky tone and democratic mindset belies its curatorial seriousness. Its real brilliance is that it throws open the doors to the self-publishing writer, the independent musician, the small zine or label or press, while maintaining a system of curation—one that makes use of already common behaviors. We already seek our next read or listen through personal recommendations. reKiosk brings that to the internet.

“We’re not trying to get rid of the gatekeeper, the curator, or the tastemaker,” Mr. Isham explains. “Those are really valuable skills that publishers have. But we have another way of curating and gatekeeping that exists on the site—when people put your work into their kiosk. That’s our quality-control.”

Essentially, reKiosk is a recommendation tool, a way to sort through the massive amount of digital media available online. By placing a file in your kiosk, you endorse it to your personal or professional networks. In other words, reKiosk is curated, but the curator isn’t, say, the head of a nation-wide book review, nor is it a “More Items to Consider” algorithm on Amazon.com. It’s simply a person whose taste you trust—a zine editor, a blogger, or a friend.

“We have the technology now, and the ability to choose when we want a human interaction,” Miss Isham explains. “With social media networks, you have access to five hundred friends, and we know what they are listening to and what they are reading, and you trust them a lot more than you would an algorithm. reKiosk is really just putting that all in one place.”

What’s especially exciting about reKiosk is its potential for tremendous growth and evolution. The Isham siblings hope to expand soon to short films, video games, and other digital media.