Amazon just announced what it’s calling “Kindle Singles.” Here’s the 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.
“Ideas and the words to deliver them should be crafted to their natural length, not to an artificial marketing length that justifies a particular price or a certain format,” said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President, Kindle Content. “With Kindle Singles, we’re reaching out to publishers and accomplished writers and we’re excited to see what they create.”
Amazon doesn’t mention what could be one of the most natural producers of Singles: newspaper series. (And series from newspaper-like online news orgs.) Singles should range from 10,000 to 30,000 words, Amazon says, which is right in the ballpark for many multi-day investigations and narrative series. (Ten thousand words is about 280 inches, newsies.)
There hasn’t been anything stopping news orgs from repurposing these kinds of series as ebooks before — witness Laura’s piece on Foreign Policy doing exactly that. But highlighting Singles in a special section of the Kindle Store could help drive consumer acceptance and bring the pieces attention.
News organizations already have tools to drive that kind of attention — their traditional and web publications. What they haven’t had is a platform that made the sale and consumption of Single-sized text easy. Instead of building or renting their own e-commerce platform — and instead of building their own devices or apps — news orgs can hand that job off to Amazon and reach a broader potential audience than other solutions might. Amazon’s announcement doesn’t specifically address the revenue share for Singles, but if it’s like the rest of Amazon’s Digital Text Platform, publishers could keep about 70 percent of the list price — a pretty good digital deal these days.
As we try to figure out the role of long-form and narrative journalism in a web world, we can’t forget the value of context shifting. Not many people are willing to read 15,000 words on a laptop screen, and it’s not surprising that many great newspaper series don’t get great traffic online. But shift that narrative to a Kindle or an iPad, and maybe more people are willing to invest the time. Maybe even the money, too.