Amazon made another big announcement on Thursday. They’re actually launching a new kind of ebook — the Kindle Serials — where the purchase price covers not only all the current chapters of an ebook, but any new chapters that the author writes in the future. “Kindle Serials are stories published in episodes,” Amazon explains on a new web page in the Kindle Store. “When you buy a Kindle Serial, you will receive all existing episodes on your Kindle immediately, followed by future episodes as they are published.”
And in a new twist, Amazon’s creating discussion areas dedicated to each serialized books, so authors can monitor ongoing discussions about what they’re writing in real-time — and maybe even get some new ideas about how to finish their stories
To celebrate, Amazon is releasing free editions of two famous 19th-century novels that were both originally published in a serialized format in monthly magazines. And they’ve also lined up eight more serial novels to inaugurate the launch of this new format for Kindle content. The selection includes Neal Pollack’s new thriller, Downward-Facing Death, and Amazon featured him prominently in their announcement of the program. “When Amazon Publishing told me about the Kindle Serials program, I wanted to participate right away,” Pollack admits in Amazon’s press release. “I’ve been writing serialized fiction since I was a kid, and I’m thrilled to be doing it again, nearly 30 years later, with an (at least somewhat) adult sensibility.”
The page for Pollack’s book in the Kindle Store gives a good idea of how the program will work. The book’s description identifies how may “episodes” are already written — right now, just one, published on September 6th — and it provides a schedule for when new episodes will be released. Pollack is estimating that he’ll ultimately write a total of six episodes, with a new episode being delivered once a month — whereas the web page for Andrew Peterson’s new thriller promises his new episodes will be delivered every two weeks. “Serialized fiction is perfect for contemporary book culture,” Pollack added in Amazon’s press release, “where writers interact with their readers directly and books can be delivered with an immediacy that the old pulp writers never could have imagined. It’s fast and fun and you barely have time to blink.
“I can’t wait to see how my book ends!”
My first reaction is that Amazon’s discussion boards really could offer a radical and exciting new way for authors to create fiction. Amazon’s calling it “another innovation for authors and readers,” and bragging that it extends the Kindle’s “already rich and unique content ecosystem” (which also includes the ability to publish shorter ebooks as “Kindle Singles” and the special Kindle Owner’s Lending Library that’s available for Amazon Prime customers). I’m not sure if the new feature is targetted at amateur authors, in order to attract the next big sensation into Amazon’s own publishing universe — or if this feature is designed to appeal to big-name, established novelists. But there’s one very important caveat: Kindle Serials are made available exclusively in Amazon’s Kindle Store, so authors that choose to publish them for Kindle audiences apparently won’t be able to reach readers on, for example, the Nook.
It’s an interesting approach, and Amazon’s press release insisted that, “As with Kindle Singles, we’re aiming to open up new ways for authors to write and customers to enjoy great writing,” adding “we think people are going to love this format.” And I really have to give Amazon some credit. They announced this new program in one of the most philosophical press releases that I’ve ever seen.
Long before the advent of digital publishing, great writers like Charles Dickens wrote many of their works serially, a practice that offered a particular rhythm, often punctuated by cliffhangers to keep readers looking forward to the next episode….
“Serialized content, whether it’s a TV show, movie trilogy or written work, is a great and much-loved form of entertainment – it leaves viewers and readers wanting more, eagerly anticipating the fates of their favorite characters,” said Jeff Belle, Vice President, Amazon Publishing. “With Kindle Serials, we’re bringing episodic books to readers in a unique way that’s seamless and hassle-free, with new episodes being added to the book as they’re published.
And readers can discuss the stories on Amazon discussion boards as they’re being written – like virtual water cooler conversations – perhaps even influencing where the next episode may go…!”