Amazon to mint virtual coins that can be spent only on Kindle apps

It's money made just for Kindle apps, and it works like regular money, but it's, er, fun

Amazon today announced plans to offer Amazon Coins later this year, virtual currency that customers can use to purchase apps, games, and in-app content for their Kindle devices but that cannot be used on media content like music, books, movies, and subscriptions. The coins can also be spent on Android apps -- so long as those apps also run on the Kindle.

Given these limitations, it's clear that Amazon's aim is to entice developers to start cranking out apps as soon as possible for Kindle. The company said that apps need to be submitted and approved by April 25 if developers want to cash in on the "tens of millions of dollars' worth of Amazon Coins" the company plans to dole out to customers when the program goes live.

According to Amazon, each coin will be worth 1 cent. Developers will receive the same 70 percent cut from apps purchased with Amazon Coins as those purchased with standard currency. Amazon customers, meanwhile, will be able to use their Amazon accounts to replenish their Amazon Coin cache.

Why customers would want to spend money on Amazon Coins is a bit of a mystery to me. As mentioned, they can only be used for apps, games, and in-app purchases -- but perhaps there's a convenience factor in not having to run through the checkout process each time you want to buy new armor for your warrior avatar or resurrect your neglected fish in your virtual fish bowl.

The program reminds me of an old episode of "The Simpsons," where the family visits a Disney-esque theme park called Itchy and Scratchy Land, and Homer is offered a chance to purchase some Itchy and Scratchy Money. "It's money that's made just for the park. It works just like regular money, but it's, er...'fun,'" explains the cashier.

"Well, OK, if it's fun," was Homer's response. "Let's see, uh ... I'll take $1,100 worth."

Upon entering the park with his wad o' I&S cash, he spots signs in front of every store and stand saying, "Itchy and Scratchy Money not accepted here."

This story, "Amazon to mint virtual coins that can be spent only on Kindle apps," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.