The Rise Of E-Singles In Literature

from the bite-sized-culture dept

While it hasn't been done perfectly, I'm of the opinion that the literature world has handled the transition to the digital economy rather well. Perhaps they saw the recording industry trip over its own testicles so badly that they were able to learn from all the worst mistakes. The pricing, while probably not exactly right, far better mirrors consumer demand than what the music industry attempted for digital music initially. We're even seeing a quicker transition to DRM abandonement than I think we saw for music. All that being said, as much as is possible, the inevitable progression that recorded music followed into the digital realm continues with literature.

With that in mind, perhaps it shouldn't be all that surprising that one of the buzzwords in the publishing industry is quickly becoming eSingles. For the unintiated, eSingles are loosely defined as works of complete literature in the neighborhood of 8k-10k words. Laura Hazard Owen sums things up rather nicely.
Amazon’s U.S. Kindle Singles store now contains 283 singles. In February, I reported that the company had sold 2 million Kindle Singles; as of September, that number was up to 3.5 million, and Amazon (AMZN) just expanded the program to the U.K., where it will include new entries by bestselling British authors as well as most of the American Kindle Singles. Many Byliner Originals are available through Kindle Singles, and they’ll be crossing the Atlantic for the first time with the program’s U.K. expansion.
Popularity of production aside, the other half of the coin is whether or not anyone actually buys these eSingles. Well, it turns out the sales of eSingle literature is a pretty decent mirror to the music singles market. In other words, they're selling pretty well. Several eSingles are hitting the best sellers list and authors tend to do quite well with them thanks to the friendly split distributors like Amazon take. Owen notes that because of the lower price of these singles, bigger publishing houses tend to not be as high on eSingles because the low price point means less on the profit margin, but that kind of misses the point. Much in the same way digital distribution lowered the barriers in music, so one would expect the same to occur in literature, meaning that eSingles may end up being less about publishers benefiting from them as much as new and/or what would otherwise be unheard of artists.

With all that said, it's the distributors of eSingles that are currently limited, but that isn't going to last for long. There's a ton of interest.
That could change next year as other digital bookstores pay more attention to the format. Apple (AAPL) has a separate section of the iBookstore for shorter reads. Barnes & Noble (BKS) launched Nook Snaps, a so-far unimpressive answer to Kindle Singles. Those efforts can give shorter works a promotional push. We could also see more companies, or individual authors, do a Kickstarter campaign to fund either a line of e-singles or just a single work. That’s what journalism startup Matter did.
What matters is that this is where publishing is going to go in the future, likely in a major way. Even the rise of the eBook helps eSingles make sense, given that anyone on a commute may wish to invest in a shorter read on their iPad than a longer novel. In any case, the end result will be more writing, more literature, and more culture, and that is a beautiful thing.
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  1. icon
    E. Zachary Knight (profile), 11 Jan 2013 @ 6:09am


    I would object, however, to the idea that Amazon gives authors a "friendly split." No way! They take 30% (one third!) of your profits.

    While 100% of the revenue would be the most ideal scenario for any creator, 70% of the sticker price is still leaps and bounds better than the

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