How Much Value Do Kindle Singles Bring to the Table?

Kindle Singles have been something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.  They occupy a strange space in the eBook marketplace.  While there’s obviously a place for good short fiction in any library, perhaps even more so now that Kindles make it so simple to index large collections, we run into issues of perceived value in book purchasing.  So I guess the question is that of what role this category fills going forward.

Theoretically, this is an ideal place to open up a set of texts that your average reader might not have had access to previously.  Not many things make it to printing in the 5,000 to 30,000 word range, traditionally, unless they happen to make it into an anthology of some sort.  One problem that I’m seeing, however, is that these less extensive works have a bit of trouble edging into the field of view of your average eBook reader.

You’ve got thousands of freebies on the one side, including hundreds of the best books ever written historically and at least as many new writers trying to break into the marketplace by offering at least first volumes without charge, and on the other there are successful authors making amazing work and selling it for anywhere from $0.99 – $2.99 through Amazon.  We all live in a world where you have to get the most for your money.  Now, clearly it is hard to quantify the value of a book. There are far too many variables to narrow it down in any way and the value for one person might well be completely different from that for another.  What do we have to compare with?  The number of stars in a review and the number of pages in the text are basically the only applicable quantities.  The question about the applicability of ratings is best left for another time.  The inherent subjectivity and bias in the existing system have come up before and will again. Page numbers are a matter of real concern though.

Objectively, I know that good writing can be found in any number of styles and lengths.  There’s no reason that $2 spent on a Kindle Single wouldn’t be better spent than on a similarly well reviewed Kindle Edition from any other category in the store.  There’s this little voice in the back of my head when I think about it, however, that reminds me that even if it’s great, the book will be over far too soon.  As such, I’m pushed back toward traditional length works.  Definitely a dilemma.

For the moment, Kindle Singles are focused on Journalism, Biography, and various other things that can best be presented in their relative completeness without using too many words.  There’s so much potential in the short fiction market though.  I just have no idea how to bring it to the table in a competitive way when larger-scale works are going so cheaply.  Anybody have a decent take on this that they’ve seen somewhere or come up with on their own?  Even aware as I am of the problems of equating quantity with quality, this is something I’m having trouble wrapping my head around.

2 thoughts on “How Much Value Do Kindle Singles Bring to the Table?”

  1. I would like to see these used by authors who have contributed to anthologies of short stories to publish their works after some “exclusivity window” expires. Often there are one or two authors in a collection whose work I want to read, but I really don’t want to pay for the entire book. I’d definitely pay $1 to read Diana Gabaldon’s story from “Songs of Love and Death”, but I don’t want to pay $8 for the paperback or $13 for the eBook or $15 for the hardcover. If she could publish it herself as a single one year after the PB release, I’m sure I’d buy it.

  2. I love the idea of Singles. Particularly as a quick way to assess if this is an author I should be paying attention to! I’ve enjoyed several Tor Originals so far. It’d be nice to be able to judge book lengths properly however – measuring book size by KB often worries me; as things like pictures/art can easily pad out the size. Some Kindle books give “printed page length” but the Tor Originals for instance only give a file size (all of which was story, at least in the ones I’ve bought so far).

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