Mikael Blomkvist and Millennium magazine would be all over Kindle Singles

“Five days after Millennium fired the first salvo, Blomkvist’s book The Mafia Banker appeared in bookshops…It was the first book to be published under Millennium’s own logo…Two-thirds of the book consisted of appendicies that were actual documentation…At the same time the book was published, Millennium put (the documentation) of the source material in downloadable PDF files on their website.”


That quote, for the three of you who have not participated in the whole “Millenium Trilogy” fad, is from the epilogue of the first book in the series, The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo. Reading the book through my prism of someone who publishes print magazines and all forms of e-media, and who is always exploring potential new-media business models related to them, I made a note of that “brand extension” strategy of the book’s fictitious magazine, Millennium, and how the book’s author, the late Stieg Larsson, through protagonist Mikael Blomkvist, outlined (with a 2004 understanding) what today, he would have likely transformed into a Kindle ebook rather than PDF.

I mention that because of today’s announcement by Amazon regarding a new store-front and marketing push that focuses on what they are calling Kindle Singles.


Today, Amazon is announcing that it will launch “Kindle Singles” — Kindle books that are twice the length of a New Yorker feature or as much as a few chapters of a typical book. Kindle Singles will have their own section in the Kindle Store and be priced much less than a typical book. Today’s announcement is a call to serious writers, thinkers, scientists, business leaders, historians, politicians and publishers to join Amazon in making such works available to readers around the world.

While the Amazon announcement is primarily a branding and marketing strategy (reduced price, specially highlighted on its own landing page) and probably just one more shot across the bow of traditional publishers (major authors have stuff shoved into a drawer that could be published independently, without the involvement of their “trade book” publisher), the concept could be a big deal for two kinds of people who read this blog: Bloggers and magazine publishers.

This will require a longer post to fully explore, but let me hit the high points of my theory:

First, my observation is based on personal experience of reading dozens of books and hundreds of long-form essays, short-stories and magazine articles on the Kindle and iPad over the past two years. It is based on my experience of such reading, several hours a week — not on a focus group or phone research or even talking with other people about how ebook readers have changed them from thinking of themselves as “lovers of books” into thinking of themselves as “lovers of reading,” as it has me.

Secondly (and this is what is going to require a much longer post), I believe there is a significant (if not vast) iPad market opportunity for magazine publishers that isn’t about adding multimedia gizmos to magazines, but that is, rather, focused on providing more readable (translation: formatted like a book) “digital” versions of the type of content that magazines have, in the past, provided better than any medium except books: compelling writing, context and analysis.

Again, I have much more to write on this specific topic, but for this post, I just want to say:

“Hey, magazine publishers. Here’s your business model: Follow Mikael Blomkvist’s and Millennium magazine’s model and publish ebooks simultaneously with magazines. And if you don’t know where else to start, give “Kindle Singles” a shot.”

As for Bloggers, here’s something I’d like to believe is possible.

I have this belief that almost every business book I’ve ever read would have been twice as good if half the words were left out. Most good (and this is a small subset of those published) business books have about five or six insightful ideas that could be explained in about 10,000 words, max. The good ones provide a deeper understanding of their insightful ideas by adding a relevant well-told story about an individual or company that applied the idea successfully — effective illustrations providing the reader with more concrete ways to connect with the ideas.

When required by the book publisher to bloat up the content to 50,000+ words, the author has to shovel in a second, third or forth anecdote or case study example to illustrate each idea. I don’t know about you, but I can usually catch the drift after the first story.

mini me

In other words, I’d be more likely to purchase a $4 ebook that is written by an expert reporter or blogger (and in this case, I’m using a very big tent definition of blogger that goes from Knitting Bloggers to WSJ.com Bloggers) that collects their “best of” insights on a specific topic. I don’t want to pay $10 for their padded version that is published as a book. But the $4 version that is 5,000 – 20,000 words of explanation, context and analysis: Bring it on.

Lastly, there is one more “proof of concept” that clearly indicates there is a market for short-versions of long books: The large pool of abridged audio book buyers who, obviously, believe “a short version” can be enough to please them. Nearly every blockbuster book marketed as an audio-book has both an abridged and un-abridged version.

If nothing else, the “Kindle Single” concept could, in addition to the other opportunities I’ve listed, provide a testing ground for publishers to try out abridged versions of mid-list titles. And for the rest of us, a chance to further disrupt the book industry — and maybe get paid while doing it.

Related post: You, too, can be an ebook publisher.