Thursday, February 3, 2011

Starting to Pay Attention to This e-Book Thing

Despite the fact that I am both a writer and a bit of a tech freak, up to this point I've been pretty uninterested in the discussions about e-book publishing. Granted, this  is probably partly because the term "e-" anything seems to be straight out the awkward web-talk of the 1990s. But also because digital books just seem like an inevitable next step in the evolution of publishing. A phenomenon with little immediate relevance to writers.

However over the past week there's been a flurry of news about digital publishing that has me paying attention and thinking about how it could eventually influence my writing.

While The New York Times announced that it will publish its first e-book, covering the newspaper's decision to publish the wikileaks documents, and Apple began cracking down on developers of reader apps, it's the news about short-form digital publishing that is particularly exciting for writers.

First Amazon released Kindle Singles, short-form non-fiction that they tout as "ideas expressed at their natural length" and the Atavist launched a reader app focusing on nonfiction stories.

While this video from the Atavist is pretty cool in terms of possibilities for mixed media essays, the simple idea of stand-alone publishing for short-form nonfiction -- a book whose length is defined only by its content -- also opens all sorts of new possibilities for writers.

I'm hoping this trend in short-form nonfiction continues and that more publishers and retailers (beyond Amazon, Apple, & Barnes & Noble) begin publishing and selling these kinds of short books. Of course this is fairly new ground and the question of whether readers will be interested in this type of piece won't be answered for some time.


  1. Good post, Nuria. In case it's of interest -- and you haven't already seen it -- this week Newsweek polls some elite reading minds on the future of the book.

  2. Thanks, Tom! I hadn't seen that article. I'm a bit surprised that Dave Eggers is so resistant since I could really see some McSweeney's pieces taking advantage of the flexibility of the eBook format.

  3. Eggers' comment about screen time resonates with this Luddite.