Kindle Singles. They’re What’s for Dinner.

27/01/11 1:36 PM

I was excited to see the Kindle Singles section of the store go live on Amazon with some heavy hitters, including one of my faves: Jodi Picoult.

I’m not happy about some of the comments I’ve seen floating around about Kindle Singles being for people with short attention spans. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Oh, where to begin? Let me count the ways…

Short stories are shorter, yes, than their novel cousins, but that makes them no less of a story any more than a short person is any less of a human being. In fact, you might be surprised at how many shorts you’re already familiar with, thanks to the silver screen: Stand by Me (based on Stephen King’s short “The Body”); Brokeback Mountain (based on a short by the same name by Annie Proulx); Million Dollar Baby (based on shorts by F.X. Toole); In The Gloaming, an HBO move based on the short by Alice Elliott Dark; A. I. Artificial Intelligence based on Brian Aldiss’s short story “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long”; and countless others.

Shorts require careful, thoughtful reading. Every. Word. Matters. Yeah, every word should matter in a novel, but let me ask you this: have you ever skimmed through some pages of a novel, even ones you like? That’s harder — if not impossible — to do with a good short, where your mind needs to be alert and aware of every move, every word.

Short stories are not easier to construct simply because they’re shorter. In fact, some would claim that crafting a successful short story is even more challenging than a novel.  Annie Proulx used to have a website (anyone know why she gave it up?), and I recorded on another blog her answer to how long it took her to write Brokeback…she said (and again, I can’t find the original source, but you’ll find references to this quote if you Google it): “Roughly six months, about twice as long as it takes to write a novel.”

Short stories are immensely satisfying. And yeah, a good novel can be as well. But shorts are satisfying in a different way. Imagine getting all your satisfaction in one sitting — say on a commute to work — with a story that lingers with you for the rest of the day and makes you think. Ah heaven, methinks (even when you’re dealing with PITA clients. Not that I ever am. Ahem).

Shorts could inspire reluctant readers to read more or to read, period. Throw Moby Dick at a reluctant reader and, well, expect a big fail whale, my friends. (I mean, c’mon — they don’t even get ON the boat for well over 100 pages, right?) Give a kid a rockin good short story and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to show a kid the joy of reading a great tale. (And then get them to try Moby a little later, once they’re hooked. Ha! Hooked — get it?)

They’re a great way to experiment. Want to try a new author or genre? Consider Kindle Singles your Whitman’s Sampler. Try a new flavor of writer — if you like his or her shorts, upgrade to a novel.

And yeah, they’re cheaper. Nothing wrong with that. I sell my shorts for 99 cents (and $1 in the places that make me, like Scribd). I want eyeballs. The more the merrier.

So call Kindle Singles exciting, cheap, a ploy by Amazon to make more money (I have no problem with that — it is a business, after all), or the best thing since kitty YoutTube videos, but do NOT say they’re meant for people with short attention spans. And don’t insinuate they’re unworthy due to length.

Nerve struck, obviously. Open to thoughts in the comments!

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4 Comments on “Kindle Singles. They’re What’s for Dinner.”

  1. Mike Says:

    I love ebooks but I read this morning that there’s going to now be advertising in them starting this year. This completely sucks. Publishers are saying, “There used to be advertising in books and we took them out but now we think it’s viable in the ebook.”

    This just pisses me off. If there’s advertising in books that I pay my hard earned money for I’m going to go back to reading paper.

  2. Robyn Says:

    Ugh! Where’d you read that? (Thanks for stopping by.)

  3. Cheryl Says:

    I just downloaded my 1st Kindle Single last night (yes, I was a KS virgin until last night) and finished it this morning over coffee. I’m an avid reader of books (fiction, non-f, biographies), they are part of my life – yet I immensely enjoyed my 1st Kindle Single!

    And – GAH! – a short attention span has nothing to do with it. I heartily contest that notion! I contend, instead, that KS’s – and any short story for that matter – are excellent forms of reading for those with EXTREMELY BUSY lives (which is almost everyone I know, these days).

    I’m a playwright, but just love to read. Sometimes I’m spending more time reading than writing. So, I often pick up a book of short stories to get a quick reading fix before moving to my computer keyboard for my own writing. It helps to be able to have story ‘closure’ (offered by short stories) as opposed to having that just-can’t-put-it-down novel taunting me. I always choose short stories when I’m writing heavily, and read novels for my down time.

    Anyone who makes this ridiculous claim hasn’t bothered to read a short story.

  4. Robyn Says:

    @Cheryl Yay — congrats on downloading your first Kindle Single…sounds like you enjoyed it! 🙂 I agree that a short attention span doesn’t plague all readers (you’re a perfect example). My sense is, though, that some reluctant readers, especially those from the land of instant gratification (those who are immersed in Facebook, Twitter, etc), might develop a love for reading by checking out short stories…and then working up to a novel.

    I love short stories as well. Enjoy! 🙂