Feel like time is too short for all the books you want to read?
You’re not alone. Busy lives and shorter attention spans have made it tougher for many to commit to a book. Fortunately, a new niche for shorter tales has found a home in the digital world and given time-pinched readers a different way to get their fix.
Probably the biggest selection of these easy-to-digest reads is found at Amazon.com’s Kindle Singles store. The store, which launched in January 2011, has sold more than 2 million Singles, according to Paid Content.
Amazon offers more than 160 Kindle Singles, between 5,000 and 30,000 words, for prices between 99 cents to $4.99. Authors range from bestselling stars such as Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, and Margaret Atwood to lesser known writers such as Mara Altman and Mishka Shubaly. Amazon adds several new Kindle Singles weekly. Many Kindle Singles books were published by Amazon, but some also come from other digital publishing houses.
Byliner publishes fiction and non-fiction “written to be read in a single sitting” and sold through the Kindle Singles store, Apple’s iTunes, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Snaps. The Atavist specializes in digital non-fiction stories, described as “longer than an article, shorter than a book,” and offers additional multi-media content such as video and audio tied to the story.
Apple sells shorter pieces through its “Quick Reads” section, described as”works of fiction that are long enough to be satisfying and engaging, yet short enough to be read in one sitting.“
Digital books are quickly becoming more important than print in terms of revenue for some retailers. Amazon revealed last year that its customers buy more e-books than print books. Juniper Research released a forecast saying e-book sales will reach nearly $19 billion worldwide by 2016, three times higher than in 2011.
Authors who have published in the format say they like the opportunity to find a home for work that is too long for magazines and too short for a book. For Amazon, Kindle Singles allows them to establish relationships with up and coming writers that it might then parlay into more exclusive publishing contracts. (Amazon has launched its own book publishing unit.) Kindle Singles’ authors price their own content and receive royalties on each sale.
Digital books have been in the spotlight as the Justice Department is investigating possible pricing collusion between Apple and electronic book publishers. Disputes between Amazon, book publishers and traditional bookstores have also flared up as each party battles for control of content and the future of the industry.
When I mentioned Kindle Singles to a writer friend recently, she said, “This is the first and only thing to make me want a Kindle.” If writers, retailers, and publishers embrace the format and readers have enthusiasm for the new length, then this prospect seems like one of the few areas of digital publishing that everyone can agree upon.