By Howard Polskin
Amazon has quietly developed an ambitious new section on its books website called Short Reads that could spark a surge in consumer consumption of e-book singles. Short Reads appears dedicated to short pieces of fiction and nonfiction. The stories are about 20-100 pages and in length, with most priced between 99 cents and $1.99.
Right now, Short Reads appears to be a stealth project with no apparent promotion or links from any part of the vast Amazon website. But its presence suggests another aggressive push by Amazon into e-book single publishing and retailing, areas where the company is already dominant.
“Short Reads looks like a serious commitment on Amazon’s part to bring short form content to readers,” said Matt Cavnar, co-founder of e-book publisher Vook. “This could be a big deal.”
The Short Reads landing page is divided into five distinct areas labeled as such by Amazon:
Browsing by reading time. Amazon has created “buckets” and has lumped books by the time it would take to read them: 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, one hour, 90 minutes, and two hours. This is a very original and clever way to position the reading of e-book singles.
Kindle Worlds. These are e-book singles featuring fan fiction inspired by tv shows, books and comics such as “Vampire Diaries” and “Wool” by Hugh Howey
StoryFront. This section offers only fiction that veers toward literary, historical and foreign titles.
Day One. Features works from the Day One weekly literary journal with an emphasis of works of short fiction from debut authors.
Kindle Singles. Amazon’s signature and selective collection of e-book singles that are curated on one section of Amazon’s site. If an author’s e-book single is not available as a Kindle Single, it will face significant challenges reaching an audience.
So what’s the purpose of Short Reads? That’s hard to determine especially since Amazon declined our request for an interview. All e-book single publishers Thin Reads contacted didn’t even know about it, which is especially curious.
We have a few back-of-the-envelope theories about the mission of Short Reads. First, it’s very fiction oriented, which is interesting since about two-thirds of the e-book singles in our database are nonfiction. Nonfiction does not seem to be a priority on Short Reads.
But our guess Short Reads’ main purpose is to give more e-book singles more prominence on landing pages. Right now, Amazon only publishes or promotes about 300 Kindle Singles a year, which is a fraction of e-book singles published each year. If you’re an author and your book is not chosen as a Kindle Single, it will be buried so deep on the Amazon site that it may as well be in the witness protection program. With Short Reads, e-book singles that are not chosen for the highly visible Kindle Singles section can still achieve a greater level of prominence on Amazon. And short stories like John Grisham’s excellent “Fetching Raymond,” which was published years ago in Grisham’s short story collection and is therefore not eligible to be in the Kindle Singles section, can now be promoted heavily on the main Short Reads landing page (which it is now).
Short Reads also spotlights how-to books and romance fiction, two categories that are noticeably absent on Amazon.
Perhaps we’ll have some answers to questions about Short Reads in the near future (BEA perhaps?). Until then, we’ll just have to speculate and hope that Short Reads means that Amazon is taking the long view about the future of e-book singles.