Davar Ardalan is the Senior Producer of NPR’s Tell Me More, and author of the recent iBooks-exclusive title, The Persian Square, a digital book that culls together over 30 media files including audio and video, weaving a modern, multimedia tapestry of Iranian American history going back to the 1800s. Ms. Ardalan contributed the guest post below.
It’s hard to define today’s media architecture, but the success of Amazon’s Kindle Singles and steady sales for the digital publishing start-up Byliner prove that Americans are ever more eager to dive into an electronic book for their reading pleasure or for some in-depth news.
In 2012, ebook sales made up over 22 percent of the U.S. publishing industry’s net revenue, according to The Association of American Publishers. Media companies looking to diversify their revenue stream might want to take note. According to The New York Times, Amazon sold five million copies of Kindle Singles since it opened in January 2011. Amazon created an e-singles digital platform back in 2011, allowing writers of non-fiction and fiction to publish original writings between 5,000 and 30,000 words. These e-singles also known as e-shorts or Quick Reads by Apple are meant to be read in one sitting.
The New York Times has also entered the ebook business. In December 2012, The Times teamed up with Byliner, a leading publisher in the e-shorts space and launched it’s own line of ebooks featuring The Times culture, sports, business, science and health stories. The Times/Byliner collaboration seemed like a “perfect fit” says Byliner Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief Mark Bryant. “Byliner is all about ambitious storytelling that lives in the space between magazine and books, and the opportunity to tap into such a deep, smart talent pool at The Times has made our partnership all the better.”
Two examples of successful Times/Byliner collaborations in the past six months include David Leonhardt’s Here’s the Deal, detailing the ever-contentious debate over the deficit, and Adam Liptak’s To Have and Uphold, on the struggle over same-sex marriage.
Bryant says both of these original Times/Byliner productions have been particularly well received, “There is a sweet spot for these types of stories — original, well written, ambitious narratives on some of the most compelling issues of the day.” He notes that declining newspaper and magazine revenues have meant fewer and fewer opportunities for writers to publish ambitious narratives.
Bryant says the addition of the mobile reading experience and it’s new subscription reading service or “streaming reading” make digital short stories even more relevant and accessible.
“Stories are being squeezed into tighter and tighter spaces,” Bryant notes, adding that readers are looking for great personalized recommendations that help them “cut through all the clutter and noise and also takes into account how much time they have to read.”