Too long for a magazine, but too short for a novel? Where do these essay-length stories and articles belong?
In a recent article in the New York Times, Jenna Wortham explores the idea of how these medium-sized pieces of content are a great fit for new devices like e-readers, iPads, and even smartphones.
It makes sense that this type of literature would act as a good transition for people moving from hard copy books to e-readers. While an entire novel may seem daunting, essay-length pieces give people a chance to try out new devices, like the Amazon Kindle, in manageable chunks with a sense of accomplishment for finishing the whole work.
It seems that several companies are jumping on this concept and promoting the availability of more niche content on digital and mobile devices. One such company, which the New York Times article mentions, is Atavist. Atavist is a boutique publishing house that specializes in producing original nonfiction stories for digital reading devices like smartphones, e-readers and tablet computers. Similarly, Amazon recently introduced Kindle Singles, a catalog of one-off essays and short stories that can cost as little as $1.
The market for this type of content is sure to grow and reminds me of an image Sam Whitmore uses to describe the phenomenon of the way content length has developed. Sam uses a bowtie to show how medium-sized content is disappearing while quick updates and lengthier content is becoming more popular. The shrinking middle represents the fading 600 word articles while the expanding sides represent the growing use of in-depth features and micro-content. But perhaps these mid-sized articles are making a comeback on e-readers.
So, while magazines and newspapers continue to produce large features, or shorter and shorter articles with the mindset that people’s attention spans are decreasing, e-readers are picking up the mid-size pieces and giving them a new home. Do you think this type of platform is a good fit for the essay-length article? Would you be more comfortable transitioning to an e-reader if more content like this was available?