The next big thing

Is the world falling for Kindle Singles?

The era of mini books is upon us. Kindle Singles have been getting press recently—first in the Globe and Mail and now in  the New York Times. “They’re works of long-form journalism that seek out that sweet spot between magazine articles and hardcover books”, explains literary critic Dwight Garner. Amazon calls them “compelling ideas expressed at their natural length”. Biographies, accounts of disasters and illness memoirs—those categories “that seem bloated when they arrive between hard covers”–are some of the “friskiest”, writes Garner. “These Singles allow real writers a chance to stretch their legs.”

The Atlantic spins mini books as an example of how the medium can change the message. “But it’s more than just technology—it’s markets too,” blogs Rebecca J. Rosen. “The technology of a paper binding can surely hold an essay of 20,000 words. But the costs of doing so were too great, and the resulting profits too low. Perhaps e-readers have liberated these mini-books from the purgatory of the writers’ brains where they lay unformed, but the liberation comes not from the page, but from the economics of the publishing house.” Indeed, at 99 cents to $2.99, Singles are a true disruptive innovation.

None of this would surprise the authors of the latest Kindle Single from The Economist. Matthew Bishop and Michael Green argue in “In Gold We Trust? The Future of Money in an Age of Uncertainty” (Amazon, $2.99) that “rather than being immutable, money is a technology. And, like all technologies, it evolves as what expect from it changes.”