Thanks for appreciating the oddness in book publishing. Clearly the announcements get less logical by the day as publishers desperately try to hash together the latest trends to market their traditional content.
Perhaps I can shoulder a fraction of the blame — years ago I was telling publishers to think expansively and create multiple editions to be “products” for all the emerging “long tails” of retail distribution [pdf eBooks, POD, hardcovers, paperback, Kindles, Sony, audio books, etc.]. Even if you only make a trickle of revenue from each stream, I suggested, if your cost to participate is very low then that combined revenue might be enough to save your
asses jobs as the landscape evolves.
What I didn’t anticipate was someone believing that you could profitably take a manuscript written for reading in a printed book format, and chop it into 140-word [think of one third of a page] episodes — then email some episodes as “tweets” [Twitter text messages] to subscribers’ cell phones. THEN, the publisher GIVES AWAY the book free, and hopes readers will discuss the book in their tweets among themselves. Note that there is no plan yet for anyone to PAY for reading these books…
Here’s the news clip about Picador’s experiment:
I wonder how even Charles Dickens — perhaps the most successful serialist of all time — would have fared with such short episodes? Try taking your favourite manuscript and chopping it into 140-word excerpts. Books simply aren’t written for this format. And the concept of encouraging critiques and book-club-like discussions online has been tried — without success — with forums, listserves, websites, blogs, MySpace, FaceBook, etc., so why would Twitter be any more productive?
Well, one has to give the innovator at Picador some credit for at least experimenting!