Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Reading in short spurts doesn't tire out the lips

EDITOR'S NOTE: IT HAS BEEN SUGGESTED THAT I POST IN SMALLER SNIPPETS.

WHILE A LOT OF THE TIME THIS WILL BE TOO TIME-CONSUMING (DESPITE THE IMAGE I PUT FORTH, THERE IS NO GREAT WEALTH AND FAME COMING TO ME FROM BEING THE QOTD), HEREWITH, I WILL ATTEMPT SOME SHORTER POSTS.

MOSTLY, CAUSE THESE ITEMS DON'T SEEM TO GO WITH ANYTHING ELSE. (AND ALSO, CAUSE THIS ONE IS ABOUT SHORT STORIES, AND I LIKED THE SYMMETRY OF SHORT STORIES AND SHORT POSTING).

New on Amazon: Short StoriesFor 49 Cents
By MYLENE MANGALINDAN and JEFFREY TRACHTENBERG
Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Amazon.com Inc. has a novel plan to sell literature that is shorter than novels.

The Internet retailer has begun selling short stories from popular authors, in digital form, that will be available exclusively on its Web site. Each story costs 49 cents. EDITOR'S NOTE: COOL BEANS!

Amazon's new program is another step in its fledgling digital-content strategy, based on the premise that original material can bring new customers to the company's site. Though not the first experiment with short-form writing on the Web, few companies with such broad influence in book retailing have become short-form publishers.

The new program, called Amazon Shorts, is starting with 59 authors, which include well-known names such as Danielle Steel and Terry Brooks. EDITOR'S NOTE: WILL THEY BE PAYING US TO READ DANIELLE STEEL? Their submissions range in length from about 2,000 to 10,000 words, which the company expects to translate into an average about seven pages each. Customers who purchase a piece can read it on the Web, download and print a copy, save it in a digital locker, or send the story to an email address.

Steve Kessel, Amazon's vice president of digital media, said short-form literature appeals to many readers but can't be efficiently distributed in paper form. "The economics didn't make sense," he said.

Digital distribution is less expensive and makes short-form literature easier to find for consumers, Mr. Kessel said. For authors, it can serve as a marketing tool, letting customers sample their work and maintain a presence in fans' minds until their next book is released, he said.

Daniel Wallace, author of the fictional novel "Big Fish," which was made into a movie with the same name, said the Amazon program is "a way to get into people's homes" and get his writing "to a lot of people who under normal circumstances wouldn't have the opportunity to see it."

The Seattle company has been adding forms of digital content -- books, music and movies -- to its Web site over the past year, with particular emphasis on original material. Last December, it offered short films that promoted products sold on the Amazon site. It later presented short films from amateur filmmakers' submissions to New York's Tribeca Film Festival. In July, Amazon Web cast short videos of celebrities delivering Amazon packages to customers, and broadcast a full-length concert with Norah Jones and Bob Dylan during its 10-year anniversary celebration.

So far, though, all these digital features have been free to Web surfers, so the new Amazon Shorts program represents a departure. Amazon also has been in talks with several music-label executives over the last several weeks about a coming digital music service, according to people familiar with the discussions. Presumably such a service also wouldn't be free.

"Amazon has taken a stance of thinking how people consume content," said Jeetil Patel, an analyst at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc.

Through digital distribution of literary shorts, Amazon can bypass the costs involved in producing and distributing books. But it's still unclear whether Amazon can make the economics of this new program work, Mr. Patel said. Amazon's Mr. Kessel declined to disclose the financial terms of the company's agreements with the authors.

Book publishers said they thought that Amazon's new service may encourage readers to try new authors. But some noted that short-form literature has never been wildly popular in the U.S.
David Steinberger, chief executive of Perseus Books LLC, a unit of Washington private-equity firm Perseus LLC, noted that short stories traditionally have limited sales appeal. When a well-known writer offers up a collection of short stories, they usually sell only a fraction of the numbers generated by their novels.

"Consumers have demonstrated they want book-length fiction," said Mr. Steinberger. EDITOR'S NOTE: YEAH, BUT FOR 49 CENTS, DON'T YOU THINK THERE'LL BE SOME NEW SAMPLING? (AND MUST THERE ALWAYS BE AN EYEORE AT EVERY PARTY?)!

He noted that there have been several business models premised on the idea that there is a type of written work longer than a newspaper or magazine article but shorter than a book for which there must be a market, and that the way to sell that material would be through digital downloads. But demand for such work hasn't materialized.

"Amazon, however, has a very dedicated audience, and they have the ability to generate add-on sales, so this could be a potential way to get an author trial at a very low cost."

Mr. Steinberger also said that Amazon's decision is somewhat predictable in that the lines between retailers and publishers have been blurring in recent years as publishers began to sell their own titles on the Web, while retailers such as Barnes & Noble Inc. invested more heavily in publishing their own books. The Web, he noted, removes barriers, in effect creating new opportunities for many.

"We're going to see new combinations," said Mr. Steinberger. "We'll see people who are partly a publisher, partly a distributor, partly a retailer."EDITOR'S NOTE: A ROSE IS A ROSE IS A ROSE.

Michael Pietsch, publisher of Time Warner Inc.'s Little, Brown imprint, described Amazon's strategy as "interesting" and said it may lead to greater book sales. He doesn't view the move as competitive, since Little, Brown doesn't sell stories on an individual basis.

"What this is about is the low cost of entry, which is one of the beauties of the Web," said Mr. Pietsch. "People will be able to sample writers for very little money, whereas they might not have paid $13.95 for a paperback or $24.95 for a hardcover. If readers like what they see, it may lead to future purchases, which would be good for us." EDITOR'S NOTE: WOW. I WONDER IF AMAZON THOUGHT OF ALL THAT! (PUNDITS. CAN'T SHOOT EM, CAN'T EAT EM FOR SUPPER).


1 Comments:

Anonymous Karla said...

but... you have to shoot them BEFORE you eat them for supper.

The problem with commenters (me), is they (I) have put much less thought into what they are about to say than the people who wrote the articles. Did this remark add to anyone's dweebing experience? No.

5:33 AM  

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