Thinking Smaller With E-Readers

Last week I wrote a short post about e-readers and their decided limitations during the summer months. A few of our readers suggested, in lieu of purchasing an e-reader, to go with something simpler. Like an iPod, cell phone, or other small device. Admittedly, that’s just what I’ve been doing. I have an iPod Touch I have been very happy with the story quality, be it PDFs, or more traditional formats like Kindle. Hopefully in the next week, I’ll also be finally joining the ranks of smartphone users, going with T-Mobile’s MyTouch Slide phone (yay!). That means I’ll want to test out a variety of reading possibilities.

But come to find out, Amazon is far from the only company trying to make a dime off of reading on a cell phone screen. Cruising through CNN last night, I came across the interesting article that highlighted three different companies who specialize in cell phone publishing.

This is an intriguing concept. One of my short stories was published last year in Steampunk Tales, a mobile only publication, so I have a little familiarity with the subject (that’s Steampunk Tales #4 for those of you who are curious and might enjoy some weird west steampunk–yes, yes, shameless plug). What I particularly like about this format is its absolute portability. It also means less to carry around in terms of devices. Even more so, I truly like the fact that it does not require additional equipment purchase. Sure, there are those of us who can run out and purchase new gadgets without concern for their budget. But hey, I’m a freelance writer. I’ve got to learn to use what I can.

The three companies profiled by CNN are CellStories, TextNovel, and Figment. I visited each site, respectively, and have a few additional thoughts on each one.

The idea of getting fiction into the hands of people, every single day, is behind the creation of CellStories. In spite of the unfortunate typo on their main page (“we strives to bring you”… someone might accidentally lapsed into LOLspeak there) I like their approach. Their stories are off beat, appear every day, and are totally free. Personally, I think the more people read the better, and I really like that these aren’t run-of-the-mill stories. Particular plus? There’s a QR code on the opening page, which is pretty geektastic. Makes you kind of feel like you’re living in the future.

The other publications CNN covered include TextNovel and Figment. TextNovel is a little more comprehensive than CellStories in that its scope includes novels (bet you figured that out from their name). I don’t have time to read every novel up there, but judging from the covers… well, it’s an intriguing approach, let’s just say. It looks like part self-publishing scheme, part Digg. Who knows? The next great American novel could be up there right now…

Figment is geared toward teenagers, however. I love the name, but I think they are a little over-enthusiastic about their potential. According to CNN, Figment co-founder Jacob Lewis had this to say of teen writers in their community: “They can write a haiku or a 90,000 word novel while riding the bus to school. They can pick and chose, share and exclaim, write and review.” Now, I don’t doubt that a teenager is capable of writing a 90,000 word novel. It’s happened. But on a cell phone? On the bus? Have you ever been on a high school bus? Actually, have you ever met the writer kids in high school? We’re the wallflowers, and sharing is… complicated. I hope that Figment does work out, of course. I think it’s got a lot of possibility. It’s still in beta, so there’s plenty of time.

At any rate, it’s interesting to see how many different approaches there are in publishing. We hear a great deal about new gadgets with new formats—but maybe the most overlooked and most populated segment of the market is the one poised to really make an impact.

Have any of you had experience with any of these sites? Now that you’ve read this, are you planning on giving novel reading/writing on your cell phone a try? What do you think of the editorial implications of such a thing? Would you ever consider trying to publish in one of these venues?

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