The launch of Amazon’s Kindle Singles has been accompanied by the launch of TEDBooks – short nonfiction works designed for digital distribution by following the type of idea which has resonated from the global series of TEDTalks, and presenting it in less than 20,000 words, which is enough for a single sitting. And you can read them via any device with a Kindle App: iPad, Mac, PC, Android, iPhone, Blackberry and Windows 7 smartphones, as well as the Kindle itself.
Longer than a typical magazine article, but shorter than your typical book, it’s an interesting approach which sees three books available at launch for $2.99. The line-up is The Happiness Manifesto: How Nations and People Can Nurture Well-Being by Nic Marks, Dangerism: Why We Worry About the Wrong Things, and What It’s Doing to Our Kids by Gever Tulley, and Homo Evolutis: Please Meet the Next Human Species by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullan.
The presumption behind the books is that their length and cost will see people choose them in preference to magazines or other short entertaining diversions, and I think it’s a fair gamble to make. I don’t think it would work for everyone, but the ideas which are shared at TED events are always interesting, engaging and designed for you to want more. It also means I can self-serve myself the topics I really want to know about, rather than paying a few dollars or pounds more for a magazine, which often contains things that I either don’t care about or don’t read if time is short.
It’s interesting to see projects like this, and Seth Godin’s The Domino Project, all taking a new look at how publishing works in a digital world, and pretty much starting from scratch and building from there. Does a book need to be a certain minimum length? Does it need a traditional print version, or the standard marketing and promotion? Will people go for something for a couple of quid or bucks, and will they choose that over a longer, more general, and more expensive magazine?
It’s also interesting that these ideas are coming Amazon, TED and Seth Godin, not a traditional book publisher. That’s not to say traditional publishers aren’t changing, but it seems like starting from a fresh perspective could reveal a lot more about the future…
(Incidentally, an alternative source of TED inspiration are the videos of TEDTalks available via Youtube. I can’t recommend it highly enough if you fancy watching talks ranging from the likes of Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Richard Dawkins through to the likes of Christoper ‘Moot’ Poole – the founder of 4Chan.)
(And if you’re intrigued or interested in what books I’m currently planning to obtain for myself, here’s my current tech/marketing/digital culture wishlist on Amazon – this isn’t a cheap ploy for presents (Although they’re always nice), but it’s the one place I’ve gone to the trouble of updating recently with recommended additions to anyone’s library. I’ll have to go back through the various book sharing social networks to provide a complete list of everything already assimiliated. Anyone got any recommendations?)