Kindle Singles: Re-Designing the Forms of Publishing

Volumes, Novels, Chapters and paragraphs. Word count plays an important role in dictating the form that a work of writing will take. Whether it be a magazine feature story, an op-ed piece or the foreword to a classic novel, word count enables publishers to identify, define and assign meaning to a mass of words, giving it structure and allowing it to take shape as a recognisable body of writing. Word counts matter for Amazon too. The company recently announced its intention to release “Kindle Singles”, a new publication structure for a body of writing containing between 10,000 to 30,000 words. According to Amazon, this word count range is the “perfect, natural length to lay out a single killer idea [that is] well researched, well argued and well illustrated – whether it’s a business lesson, a political point of view, a scientific argument, or a beautifully crafted essay on a current event”.
By announcing Kindle Singles, Amazon has not only created a new publication structure, but a legitimate mode of distribution. As a strategy for distribution, Kindle Singles offers the kind of versatility and sale benefits that the sale of single musical tracks offered iTunes. Digitisation is not only about data compression and the creation of ever-smaller file formats. Digitisation also translates into greater opportunities for distribution and consumption. The fact that Amazon may envisage its new e-publication structure and distribution method to be somewhat akin to what single tracks are to iTunes may be evinced from the fact that the Kindle Single:
Will have its own designated section in the Kindle Store; and
Will be “priced much less than a typical book”.
By giving Kindle Singles a distinguished space in the Kindle Store and by passing on appealing prices to consumers, it is certainly possible that Amazon may be generating a new kind for publication structure that will be have influence beyond Amazon. Not only is it foreseeable that such a structure could attract larger audiences and ensure greater sales for Amazon, it is also possible that the notion of the “Single” could become a main player in the e-publication market at large. In the same way that iTunes was able to dictate the direction of musical charts through the sale of singles, so too may Kindle Single contribute to the thoughts, ideas and commentaries which pervade popular culture, as well as best-seller lists.
Amazon’s announcement of Kindle Singles is an interesting proposal for the future of the written word. Kindle Content Vice President Russ Grandinetti comments that Kindle Singles will enable writers to present their ideas “crafted to their natural length, not to artificial length that justifies a particular price or a certain format”. It will be very interesting to see how popular these crafted words without conditions will be with consumers. Not only has Amazon potentially carved out a new share of the e-publication market with the launch of Kindle Singles, it is also creating new notions of writing structures and formats and the way ideas are disseminated by the written word.