9 Sep 2013

New Project: Ebook Singles

Last Thursday the Guardian's Julian Gough predicted that Amazon's Kindle Singles are going to be the future. Thank dog he also included other publishers' digital copies of fiction and non-fiction texts that allow authors to get work published which doesn't fit any of the traditional formats, i.e. which is too long to count as a short story, too short to be a novel, too long as an essay and too short for a monograph. He proposes to call these texts 'bookeens', little books. I'm not sure that this term will eventually make it, but I leave that for definers of genre to ponder over.

I myself am intrigued by this new format and the texts themselves: are we really going to witness the evolution of new genres, somewhere between the short and the long form for both fiction and non-fiction? Will they be new in any structural sense? Is there really something like a text "at [its] natural length" (Gough) or do Singles simply mean that the sometimes necessary cuts and focussing got lost? To find out, I'll have to read some, I suppose. And that's what I'm planning to do: review Book Singles.

This is a bit of a new departure for me because I've always been (and am going to stay!) a proper paper book lover, who enjoys nothing more than leaving train tickets and receipts in books, placing finished volumes on my shelves, and scribbling in the margins. The Singles are digital only in their nature, so I suppose I will have to get used to that first.

I asked for indie publishers on twitter yesterday that also offer these short texts, but apart from the Galley Beggar Press with their Singles Club I didn't get any further recommendations other than Amazon (by the way, thanks, Thom!). So, I'd be really glad to get any more suggestions, preferably from smaller presses, since the whole Amazon malarkey simply bores the sh*t out of me when it comes to publishing.

Thanks in advance for all your suggestions and comments, I hope some of you would like to join me in reading and discussing!

7 comments:

  1. We have been witnessing the "birth" of new and hybrid genres for, at the very least, 15 years now within both established and startup publishers of "proper" paper books. Presses like: Dalkey Archive, Coffee House, Black Ocean, Gold Wake, Green Lantern, Ugly Duckling Presse, BlazeVOX (which does offer some digital books), Spuyten Duyvil, Dorothy, Tarpaulin Sky, Horseless, and Shirt Pocket (the last specializing in chapbooks).

    I look forward to reading your reactions to both these so-called new genres and also their digital presentation!

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  2. Thank you, Shawn! I didn't mean to imply that this is going to be the next best thing to sliced bread publishingwise - I'm just curious to see what's possible if publishers don't have to worry too much about production costs and such things before they take on a text, and whether there might be something in it for readers too. I was just wondering whether the move to digital distribution might not be a chance for texts that hardly ever 'make it' in traditional formats - which also includes poetry, as Salt Publishing's decision to no longer bring out poetry collections by single authors this spring shows.

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  3. Your point about production costs is interesting and one I had not considered. The digital volume of poetry I purchased from BlazeVOX is really good (in terms of poetry and as far as I can tell), but suffers greatly from the eBook's inability to retain certain formatting while remaining fluid text--and I think that's the great (tech) hurdle at the moment. The other great hurdle . . . well: I made the transition to digital music, photography, and, to a large extent, grading fairly quickly and easily. I really really like my Kindle, but I'm not going to stop buying physical books any time soon.

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    1. Perhaps you should let BlazeVOX know about the formatting problems? I had similar issues with the Poetry App I recommended and contacted them on facebook; they fixed it with the next update and now I'm very happy with it.
      Concerning the other hurdle, as I said in the original post, I'm never going to give up physical books. They are simply so much part of who I am, I can usually recall when I first read them, but I see that some text forms might not be able to 'survive' in paper or not make it to any reader at all. I do hope though that popular digital texts will get their physical equivalent eventually, either as print-on-demand or in anthologies. After all, people have always wanted to keep stuff they love, haven't they?

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  4. I love Julian Gough's writing: it is not only wise but also witty.

    May I add another single publisher to your list? It is us! mikrotext is a new indie digital publisher from Berlin publishing two singles every three months, mostly German, but watch out for two great titles coming out this October! Find out more at http://www.mikrotext.de

    Also there is a new e-novella publisher in Berlin called "Das Beben" after Heinrich von Kleist's famous novella "Das Erdbeben von Chili".

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    1. Julian already recommended mikrotext on twitter, so I'm following you to keep updated! And many thanks for the other suggestions too, I'll continue to collect contacts and hope to write about stuff by and by.

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  5. I meant to say: Watch out for two great ENGLISH titles coming out this October :) - a Berlin trilogy by Chloe Zeegen (if you like Tao Lin you will like her style) and the translated facebook posts of a Syrian blacksmith, Aboud Saeed, "the smartest guy on facebook".

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