MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT

Could This Be The Future Of Books?



I can't count how many times I've heard someone lament to me that they’re too busy to read a book. 

At first, I avoided these people. Who's too busy to read a book? But, the sad fact is that everyone thinks they're too busy to do most things these days. And why shouldn't they be? Our attention is constantly divvied among dozens of devices all bearing different distractions across mediums that dominate nearly all of our senses. 

The most common excuse people give me for why they haven't read a book is that they just don't have time to sit down and do one thing at a time. 

I want people to read more books, to continue to consume good stories, to let themselves get lost in someone else's imagination. 

That's why I'm intrigued about a new start-up that is trying to marry the best of books with the best of podcasts, to give readers the ability to consume stories across formats. 

Serial Box, which raised $1.65 million in funding in 2017, does exactly what its name suggests. It serializes books into episodes, bite-sized portions that are relatively easy to digest. In the past few months I've heard it called both Charles Dickens for the digital age and HBO for Books. 

The company acts as a hybrid between a production studio and a publishing house by hiring talented authors to write new fiction in addition to writing teams who can turn that books into easily consumable episodes released on a weekly basis, just like podcasts. 

A typical serial will run for about 10-16 weeks. Here's the part where it gets interesting. Consumers can listen to an episode or they can read it on an e-reader. Don't have time to sit and read a book? Listen to the next chapter/episode while driving to work or mowing the lawn. Find yourself with a spare half hour in the midst of a lazy Sunday? Why not read the next chapter in print. The two formats are aiming to be seamlessly interchangeable. This is what I find so interesting — the ability to enjoy a story in multiple formats as it suits you. 

"In the past 20 years our lives have changed as the book hasn’t changed while other entertainment forms like television and podcasting have," explains Molly Barton, Serial Box's co-founder. Barton knows books. She previously worked at Penguin Random House US as global digital director. She told me that she understands books can feel daunting to people. "The experience of reading a full-length book feels hard," Barton said. "The switching back and forth between reading and listening really appeals to people. I think people expect their content to be very mobile and very flexible." 

...So is this the future of the printed book? An evolution of the book rather than the death entirely of the printed page? Let's see if it gets more people reading before we make that call.

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