Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The In-Betweeners

Despite the mainstream narrative, I’ve never thought of books and ebooks as an either/or relationship. They both have strengths and weaknesses, both appeal to different types of readers and, quite often, different reading situations. What is exciting about ebooks is they open the possibility for new types of books, new readers, and new situations. For example, we’re starting to see a good number of in-between lengths being published as e-books; novellas, long-form journalism, long-short stories, supplemental material; works and content that, for whatever reason have found limited success in print. Here are a few examples of this new kind of longer, shorter, in-between ebooks.

Lucretia and the Kroons: This digital only is a novella that acts as a kind of prequel for Victor LaValle’s most recent novel, The Devil in Silver. It’s obvious why this story wasn’t included in the novel. Even though it’s protagonist, Lucretia, is a major character in The Devil in Silver, the story is set several years before the events of the novel and deals with many different, though somewhat overlapping, themes. It never would have fit in the longer form, but it’s a really good story and deserved to see the light of day. Ebooks present a great opportunity for authors and publishers to bring out some of the other stories, notes, drafts, materials, journals, etc that go into writing a book. Some authors and some projects could produce a print book along with any number of secondary ebooks.

Epic Fail: No matter how professional or thorough or scholarly a magazine or journal is there are still going to be limits on the length of articles or essays. And some ideas or topics, no matter how thoroughly explored, won’t support a book length work. E-books, like this one from the literary website The Millions (one of the best reasons to venture out onto the Internet if you ask me), explores our fascination with terrible art. For the past couple of years, Byliner (the publisher of this particular ebook) has been bringing out long form non-fiction and I think we’re just beginning to find ways for e-books to make it easier and more convenient for long essays and other not-quite-book-length non-fiction to find readers.

 Playbook 2012 Series from Politico: The political website Politico, published a series of ebooks taking an in-depth and in-progress look at the 2012 election. Starting November 2011 The Right Fights Back, Inside the Circus: Romney, Santorum and the GOP Primary, Obama’s Last Stand, and The End of the Line: Romney vs Obama: The 34 Days that Decided the Election, marked a breakthrough in journalism. As with other non-fiction, ebooks allow journalists to publish pieces too long for conventional periodicals but too short for books. I hope in the future, to see ebooks used for the long, multi-article investigative journalism that has been so important to our society, but has been fading from our newspapers, magazines and news broadcasts because of the prohibitive cost. By collecting and publishing an investigative series as an ebook, newspapers and magazines could find an additional revenue stream to fund these vital ventures.

(And since we’re talking about ebooks, I’ll remind you that Kobo Minis are just $59.99 through February 14th.)

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