New Kindle Singles May Rewrite Rules of Publishing

New program allows authors to digitally publish short works and sell them to prospective fans

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Amazon.com has just launched its new Kindle Singles program, which allows authors to digitally publish short works in the form of extended essays or pint-sized downloadable eBooks and sell them to prospective fans.

Kindle Singles, narratives of between 5-30,000 words in length (longer than the average magazine feature, less than a full-length book) are now available for sale from the Amazon Store for $0.99-$4.99. The online retailer says current selections from authors like Evan Ratliff and Jodi Picoult, which average $2-3, include original reporting, short stories, memoirs and fiction, with more manuscripts to be “frequently launched” over coming months. But more important than the TED technology conference’s new line of volumes or virtual weight-loss regimens are possibilities the platform opens for independent authors and publishing houses.

Only 22 Kindle Singles, allegedly built as a forum to allow academics, authors and thought leaders to expound at length on subjects without compromising quality for limited page space, are currently available. Still, it’s undiscovered talent and enterprising online entrepreneurs who may prove the platform’s unwitting stars. Coupled with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing self-publishing service and the downloadable Kindle App, compatible with Mac/PC computers and millions of iOS, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone 7 devices, DIY production may soon become norm.

Should users take to the format, there’s no reason undiscovered essayists idly scribbling away in the off-hours couldn’t become the next John Updike or upstart indie publishing houses flourish by tackling niche topics. Theoretically, the platform could even birth a new breed of ultra-prolific author, including social media-savvy scribes propelled to fame through constant release of new material inspired by fan request or topical issues. Potentially letting anyone publish without a literary agent or expensive print run, the service may let young talent thrive by selling bite-sized, value-priced manuscripts to a small, but loyal fan base.

Whether or not it does for independent authors what the App Store did for bedroom coders, there’s at least one upside for prospective music critics. Specifically, that the program provides incentive to finish that unauthorized biography of Lil’ Wayne or nonfiction essay expounding the glory of Kip Winger, even if you’re stuck just 30 pages in.

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