In an age when a Twitter size concentration span is becoming the norm, publishers are looking for ways to reach new readers by offering them shorter works to read. The British book market is buzzing with new short titles from the major publishers.
Penguin, for example, has just launched Penguin Shorts – a collection of short e-books from major authors. They’re available across all the digital platforms, but here’s the kicker: they’re only available in Britain. You’d think that with technology being what it is, they could allow a person to buy an e-book in London and download it in the US. They would still get their money and so would the authors, presumably. (I know it’s more complicated than that, but still…)
The Penguin collection includes memoir, fiction and essays and they retail in the UK for about $3.00 per download. Most, but not all, of their titles have been commissioned specifically for this imprint (if that’s the right word), so there’s a new memoir from Colm Tóibín, and short works from Anita Brookner and Helen Dunmore, among others, as well as How To Set Up A Free School – by Toby Young and The Battle of Alamein by Colin Smith and John Bierman. The idea behind the essays was that instead of waiting six months for a book about some current event, a Penguin Short could be produced from scratch in less than a month. I see some opportunity for new writers here.
Random House is doing the same thing, except that in their case, you can buy some of the stories in the US. They’re hard to find on Amazon, however. I searched in the Kindle store for Storycuts and found 25 of them, all by Su Tong. I’m pretty sure there are others….They are releasing about 200 short stories, generally culled from their current collections rather than new work. Ruth Rendell, Alice Munro and A.S. Byatt as well as the famous Su Tong, are among them. These retail for around $2.00.
And there’s PanMacmillan, who publishes under the ShortReads label. Again, a limited selection of these are available here in the US, but I daresay there will soon be more of them. Emma Donoghue, Bret Easton Ellis and Andrew Lane are among the authors here. If you want to check for any of these on Amazon (I haven’t checked the other sites) you’ll need to follow the links here, find the titles and then look for them by name. Cumbersome and not exactly quick. In fact, for those of us with a Twitter-type attention span, hunting down these books can be a pain in the neck.
On the brighter side, Tessa McGovern of eChook Digital Publishing has long since had an app available for all e-book platforms, that includes short story and memoir collections designed to be read in about 10 minutes. You can check them out on the eChook website, and maybe submit something for possible publication. Perhaps Penguin and the rest should have consulted her about how to go about this…
Ether Books, based in England, has published digital short stories for an iPhone application for between 50p and £2.39, depending on length, since last summer. The stories are only available on the iPhone, Android and Blackberry, so far as I know, but they should be available in the US. They take submissions, too!