Well, Motoko Rich is convinced this is a harbinger. Christ, I hope not. Let me explain. The Atlantic monthly magazine has made moves to 'partner' (ugh) with Amazon to offer short stories for the Kindle. A price per story at $3.99 sounds a bit harsh until you realise that one story at least is 15,000 words. Short? Really? I can't find publishers prepared to take on stories more than 5,000 words, and anyone accepting over 2,500 is pretty rare these days, so I question whether this is really a novella, but anyway... Rich declares, rather excitingly:
Let the iTunes-ization of short fiction begin.
Really could have done with an exclamation mark, but it's the New York Times—they use such punctuation sparingly. So the analogy works like this: the iPod is the Kindle is and iTunes is...what exactly?
Added to that this horrifying aspect:
The authors with the Atlantic agreement have been paid a four-figure fee and will split sale proceeds with both The Atlantic and Amazon. Although the authors may at some point obtain the rights to republish the stories as part of a collection or in another magazine, the stories cannot appear in any other e-reader format.
You are joking right?
I'm not sure people have grasped why the iPod has been as successful as it has. The iPod built on the success of iTunes, both of which were built on the success of the open and freely available mp3 format. To play songs in iTunes and sync them with an iPod, you didn't need to buy your songs from the iTunes store (indeed the store was still a good two years away in the USA and about four or five in Australia). The framework was already there and it didn't depend on Amazon or anyone else locking the songs into some ham-fisted exclusivity deal.
One of the authors, Christopher Buckley, has said:
“Sure, ideally, I would like it printed on archival paper and bound in red morocco with gold embossed for a limited edition and signed by the author,” Mr. Buckley said. But if the Kindle edition “grabs some eyeballs — and I guess grabbing eyeballs is what the Internet is all about — then I’m all for it.”
Nice idea, but Mr Buckley is kidding himself. The internet is all about grabbing eyeballs: potentially billions of them. Locking yourself down to one single e-book reader (grabbing maybe thousands of eyeballs at best) is about something else entirely.
So, yes, let the iTunes-isation of short stories begin. Let it flourish regardless of any back room attempts to tie readers down to any single platform or device.