It looks like Amazon is extending its e-reading platform to include short works and digital pamphlets. Today, Amazon is launching Kindle Singles, which are Kindle books that are in the company’s words, “twice the length of a New Yorker feature or as much as a few chapters of a typical book.” Generally, Amazon characterized Kindle Singles as 10,000 to 30,000 words (roughly 30 to 90 pages).
Chapbooks and pamphlets have a long and glorious history. For example, Thomas Paine's Common Sense which helped to convince the founders of our country to revolt, sold 500,000 copies in its first year. The promotion of chapbooks by Amazon is exciting. A few years ago I thought Seth Godin's ChangeThis.com was a great idea with its downloadable paid pdfs but this is even more exciting as it is a broader distribution platform and opens up a whole new category and revenue stream. It can be used to bring back serials (like the Neil Stephenson one I wrote about a week ago), short form biographies, and essays on things you need to know. The TED videos equivalent of a written lecture.
It is the kind of thing I want to publish and promote. I'm trying to convince some of my friends who write on popular but niche subjects to work with me on, I would help them package and promote them. Things that couldn't be books but that could bring them income by giving their fans information and letting them sell a thousand or more copies. I'm excited by this.