Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Tiny Novels Are Coming! The Tiny Novels Are Coming!

Anyone who knows me knows technology is one of my addictions. I’m always looking forward (I think) to see what’s coming, what’s converging, and what’s about to land on us without our seeing it. That’s how it happens, right? Changes in technology don’t greet us at the door with a smile and handshake, it drops on our heads like a piano cut loose from the top floor or a New York brownstone before it can be pushed through the window of that fancy apartment on 5th Avenue! Okay, a long metaphor, but you get the point.

But, sometimes, technology changes, especially in the arts, sneak up on us and bite us on the ass when we’re not looking. This is kind of what’s happening with the revered novel and the cell phone. Technology is now delivering a whole new experience over the cell phone and transforming how we read.

This is from Wikipedia (I just cut and pasted because it’s easier than plagiarizing or paraphrasing):

Cell phone novels are meant to be read in 1,000 to 2,000-word (in China) or 70-word ( in Japan) chapters via text messages on cell phones. They are downloaded in short installments and run on handsets as Java-based applications on a mobile phone. Cell phone novels often appear in three different formats: WMLD , JAVA and TXT.

The first cell phone novel was “published” in Japan in 2003 by a young online writer, Yoshi. His first cell phone novel was called Deep Love, the story of a teenaged prostitute in Tokyo. It became so popular that it was published as an actual book, with 2.6 million copies sold in Japan, then spun off into a television series, a manga, and a movie. The cell phone novel became a hit mainly through word of mouth and gradually starting to gain traction in China and South Korea among young adults. In Japan, several sites offer large prizes to the winners (up to $100,000 US) and purchase the publishing rights to the novels.

Five out of the ten best selling novels in Japan in 2007 were originally cell phone novels.

The phenomenon has not yet spread to the United States or Europe, but it is inevitable that as cell phone and text message usage continues to increase, cell phone novels will become popular in these locales as well. There is a blog at referencing a new site that is preparing for launch in the United States market.

The cell phone novel Deep Love, for example, was first “published” via text message, then it was published as an actual book, filmed as a movie, and made into a television show and a Japanese-style comic book. It hasn't simply created a new medium; it has affected other media at the same time.

Well, this Wiki entry is a bit behind the times on one thing: cell phone novels are arriving on our Western shores, and soon. I work for several publishing companies and I know that they are having internal discussions about how to incorporate cell phone services into their business models. The U.S. is behind Europe and Asia in cell technology (welcome to the 21st century), but with the new iPhone and its competitors, the delivery system is now in place and the novels are coming! the novels are coming!

So, get those thumbs in shape and start thinking in 70 word text messages, because that’s the new way to write the great Ameican novel—one SMS text package at a time!


Caroline said...

I read about this. The writing is pretty atrocious, but the interesting thing is one of the "novelists" got a computer as a gift and began typing on it, and suddenly, her sentences became more complex. I guess it's a good thing in that any sort of reading is good--and also, if it jumpstarts people off the textnovel and into more complciated novels, well that's good, too.

2nd2Nun said...

I guess it's all about accessibility now.

At first the idea turned me off, but overall it sounds interesting.

Sent right to you, in small bits...

I can see how it may catch on.

Jeff Lyons said...


Sorry it's taken so long to respond... I'll be getting back to this blog presently to keep it more current. But yes, it is interesting. And it's all part of a massive wave of change (yes a sunami) coming our way re storytelling and the Internet. I'll have more on this later in a new blog entry. But thanx for leaving a footprint.