How many people in this fast paced world have time to sit and read a long book on an iPad? There is no doubt that reading books on an iPad is very convenient but it creates an opportunity to get distracted and jump online or read something else – maybe a magazine or newspaper. So in this world of short attention spans how can we save the book? Well the answer seems to be to turn books into the music equal of singles.
This week Apple introduced a collection of new short-form “books,” called Quick Reads, that are like short stories, long articles or packs of recipes, priced at just a fraction of the cost of what users pay for a full book. Amazon introduced a similar concept back in January 2011 with Kindle Singles- which seems ironic – a book store treating books like music! Apple has a music background so it makes sense but Amazon?
Newer, short-form e-books – in Amazon parlance “Singles,” and in Apple parlance “Quick Reads”-are not based on breakthrough technology but a few simple business realizations: Not all passages of a book are in equal demand, and consumers are willing to buy their literature by the paragraph as long as those paragraphs are catchy with a great hook in music parlance.
According to a company spokesperson, the Kindle store currently features 95 titles in its Singles collection including: “The Megabanks Mess” by former TARP administrator Herbert M. Allison ($.99), “Mile 81” by Stephen King ($2.99) and “Assange Agonistes” by journalist Heather Brooke ($1.99) because let’s face it who wants to read a full book about wiki-leaks infamous founder – wait, you do – well now you can consume him in smaller chunks.
The new, Apple Quick Reads collection launched with titles like: “Planet Killers” ($.99) about menacing asteroids by The New Yorker’s Tad Friend, “This American Burger” ($4.99) by former New York Times food writer Molly O’Neill, and “Excellence Now” ($5.99) by Tom Peters. In some ways, Apple’s official launch of Quick Reads is an expansion of what started several months ago with cookbooks and children’s volumes in their iBookstore.
In July, Cookstr–a New York City startup that helps high-end cookbook publishers and culinary talents go digital– began to sell small recipe packs in sizes ranging from 10 recipes, selected by theme, like “Summer Starters” or “BBQ Menu,” for 99 cents, to all 250 recipes for about 10 bucks. Cookstr started selling these short form iBooks with a collection from chef Rozanne Gold, the 1-2-3 Collection.
Other recipe collections in the iTunes store include 99-cent cooking titles from Good Housekeeping.
By opening a dedicated Quick Reads section, Apple is showing that short attention span theater, or more generously, high impact content for time-pressed consumers, isn’t just for television. Brevity, they’re betting, will appeal to the literate, too.
The growth of book singles, raises another question: Will publishing be revitalised or not by the opportunity to sell sections or even chapters of books?