Amazons Kindle Serials are a new-old form of storytelling
Most content creating industries have been hit hard by the internet and the publishing world is no exception. Publishers and authors are trying to respond to the challenges and opportunities created by the internet in general and Amazon in particular,experimenting with form,style and delivery systems. At its recent launch of a new line of Kindles,Amazon introduced Kindle Serials in association with several literary studios,a form of episodic storytelling that marries electronic books with Victorian-era techniques. Kindle Serials will tell stories in short instalments,priced between $0.99 and $2.99 each,much like Charles Dickens or Joseph Conrad would publish their serialised stories in newspapers and magazines in the 19th century. Customers would also have the option of buying the entire series for a flat fee,with each update delivered to their device as it is released.
The idea of serialised storytelling does,of course,survive in other creative industries,such as comic books or TV see,for instance,the success of Lost or Mad Men but was largely abandoned by the literary world,apart from some experimentation,by Stephen King,for instance.
But perhaps the internet age can make this form relevant again. For authors,serialisation can be a chance to demonstrate that their stories have a market. The real-time nature of the mode of publication allows them to be in dialogue with readers,taking suggestions and criticism on board. Serials are also a challenge,a different kind of writing. They call for each episode to tell a coherent story while maintaining an overall narrative arc; they also require authors to establish a propulsive rhythm that can grab the readers attention and hold it. For publishers,too,serial novels can be a testing ground for new authors.