The self-publishing era — whether it be blogs or sharing your photos online — is blooming in so many different ways, it’s hard to keep up. Today we learned from Steve Rubel that Amazon.com is encouraging its customers to post photos of themselves using products alongside the product descriptions.

Amazon explains:

What are customer images? Your pictures of products in action, with captions – photos of product features (“see the simple controls on this music player”), products in use (“here’s how to install the ink cartridge”), product performance (“this camera’s macro mode is incredibly sharp”) – anything you can imagine to help other shoppers learn about the product!

As with the written user review that Amazon popularized, it’s yet another way for the company to foster the notion that its web site is an extended community of users, not just an anonymous storefront, and to use content from its own customers to drive sales. It also speaks to the growing popularity of online sharing, particularly photos, photoblogs and camera phones.

Here’s the FAQ.