Kindle Singles Highlight Magazine Talent
There may not yet be much market for magazines on the Kindle, but Amazon's Kindle Singles store is one place to find plenty of references to magazines and magazine writers. Kindle Singles, marketed as stand-alone book-like products, are designed to fill a niche between conventional books and long-form magazine articles. They can be timely, opinionated and direct, like political pamphlets, or a pleasant diversion, like a novella. " ... typically between 5,000 and 30,000 words, [Kindle Singles] are intended to allow a single powerful idea—well researched, well argued and well illustrated—to be expressed at its natural length," reads an e-mail I got this week promoting Christopher Hitchens' "The Enemy," which reflects on the death of Osama bin Laden.
These qualities are certainly present in Hitchens' work, an effort to refocus attention on bin Laden's pernicious ideas and their decreasing relevance to ordinary Muslims, even as most media has been consumed with the circumstances of his death. More than anything, Hitchens argues, the death of Osama bin Laden lays bare the self-defeating hypocracies of al-Qaeda, as sensed by a new generation of Arab youth, and argues for a patient, relentless approach to defeating terrorism worldwide.
If this sounds like something you'd encounter in The Atlantic or The New Yorker, you're right—it took me about as long to read as some of the longer investigative magazine pieces—which raises the question of whether Kindle Singles are a help or a threat to magazines. To the extent Amazon allows it, these could be great promotional tools (the Singles page on the day I checked it featured references to multiple websites and periodicals), especially if there are links to some of the publications in "about the author" sections of the Singles, or if excerpts were to appear in magazines. On the other hand, the ability to put out compelling long-form prose in the midst of an unfolding political or cultural development has long been the bailiwick of magazines. Is the ability to download Christopher Hitchens or Susan Orlean to a Kindle a distraction for those who might otherwise read what they have to say in a magazine, or does it raise the profile of magazine talent?