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Kindle Singles Announced

Posted on : 17-10-2010 | By : Dean | In : ebooks, Publishing, Technology

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Heart of Darkness, Daisy Miller, Turn of the Screw, War of the Worlds, Animal Farm, The Metamorphosis, The Old Man and the Sea, The Awakening. All of these works have at least one thing in common. They were written in that nebulous word count space that publishers rarely risk investing in, at least in fiction: the novella. Henry James called it the “blessed form,” but it’s a form that, despite its wonderful potential, has remained an anomaly in the modern print publishing model–too short for the major houses and too long for the journal market.

However, there’s promise that this form may emerge in new ways. This Tuesday, Amazon made the following announcement:

Today, Amazon is announcing that it will launch “Kindle Singles”–Kindle books that are twice the length of a New Yorker feature or as much as a few chapters of a typical book. Kindle Singles will have their own section in the Kindle Store and be priced much less than a typical book. Today’s announcement is a call to serious writers, thinkers, scientists, business leaders, historians, politicians and publishers to join Amazon in making such works available to readers around the world.

Most people agree that the book, in its traditional print form, isn’t going anywhere soon. Sales may be flat and in general decline (last year Bloomberg reported a 1.8% overall decline while ebooks tripled), but enough readers seem to prefer print to keep the industry going for some time.

But the amazon announcement shows that there may niche markets where the digital book can thrive alongside the print one. It seems a perfect fit. The cheaper production cost makes publication viable, and the short length fits the reading pattern of most web/digital readers. There may even be opportunities for new publishers that specialize in forms that perform well in the digital market. The success or failure of ventures like “Singles” will sort that out.

On the other end of the keyboard, “Singles” will provide an amazing opportunity for writers, both beginning and established, to explore the form with access to new published models.

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