Publishers, literature and apps

(UPDATE: Please read Harald Fougner from Gyldendal’s comment to this post, which shows that there is indeed more to this than I had imagined. Thanks Harald.)

One of the biggest Norwegian publishers, Gyldendal, is inviting new, unpublished authors to a writing competition in connection with their new app KORTLEST, which directly translated means “short reads” or “quickly read” and is supposed to suit our new habits of reading from phones and tablets while we’re waiting somewhere, or on public transport, or in between other activities.

This sounds fantastic. Until you read the rules, and realize that maybe Gyldendal hasn’t quite dived headfirst into the digital era yet. They want a story at least 50 pages long, or collections of stories or other texts of about that length. The prize-winning submission will be published as a book! Excerpts – only excerpts!? – will be published in the KORTLEST app. And submissions are only accepted on paper, not electronically.

I hope I’m not getting the full picture here. Because I’m going to be rather annoyed if I start reading a great story in KORTLEST and then have to go to a bricks-and-mortar bookshop to buy a lump of paper in order to read the rest of it.

I think Norwegian publishers – or maybe the Arts Council (Kulturrådet) – should invest in sites like Wattpad, which bills itself as the YouTube for literature. Wattpad is a Canadian site with over 8 million unique users a month and 3,2 million stories, and its app for phones is apparently the most downloaded reading app there is (above iBook and Kindle!?). Teens are among the most active users, and importantly, the default model is that you write your own stories as much as you read other peoples’. You upload a chapter at a time, share it on Facebook, receive (and write) comments and suggestions and add links to videos and music you think fits the mood of each chapter. Once a year you can submit a novel to the Watty Awards.

Wattpad is primarily English language, but Norwegian teens are on it too. Maybe we should fund a translation of the interface to Norwegian? Imagine if Norwegian teens were encouraged to write, to share their writing and to comment on each others’ stories – and Gyldendal or another publisher could host awards and publish the winners in other formats if they so desired.

Maybe that’s not a great business model for making a profit. But I don’t think traditional publishing is going to be a great business model either in the years to come.

19. March 2012 by Jill
Categories: Electronic literature | 4 comments

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