Monday, February 9, 2009

Will "Fallout 101" Change the Face of Publishing?

Members of the Kindle community have been encouraging Amazon to think creatively about how the capabilities of the popular e-reader can introduce new publishing models.

Amazon has launched an experiment in the form of distributing Andrew Macauley's science fiction project Fallout 101 that shows the company may have some interest in shaking up the status quo in the publishing world. While the overall plot is tried and true sci-fi―a man is revived in a laboratory on a futuristic world and must figure out where he came from and what's going on―there are some unique features of the project that make it stand out.

The work is being distributed in serial form, with users getting a couple chapters a week. In addition to the novel, subscribers receive essays from the author on various elements of writing the book (how he creates characters, for example) and the Amazon description promises that readers will periodically receive short stories that are not part of the novel but relate to the plot, characters, and setting of the work.

I've been reading Fallout 101 for a couple weeks now and have been enjoying it. The world that that Macauley has created is engaging―the characters are interesting, the action well plotted and there's just the right dash of cool futuristic gadgetry. The essays on character and plot development are a little less interesting to me personally, but I like that the project includes pieces that help to understand and develop a relationship with the author. One recent note indicated that the author would be posting less content on a given week than usual because he was helping his mother move. You don't get that with a Grisham novel!

While the project shows the potential for exploring new and different publishing models, there are some flaws. First, Fallout 101 uses the Kindle's blog delivery capability and displays installments in reverse chronological order, with the most recent installments at the top of the table of contents. This works well for blogs, but not so well for a novel. A late-comer to the Fallout 101 party would need to go to the end of the article list and return to the table of contents after each chapter to select the next chapter above the previous one. This process disrupts the flow of reading unnecessarily.

What hampers calling Fallout 101 a breakthrough experiment in e-book publishing is the fact the entire project is available for free at Kindle subscribers, then, are paying for the convenience of re-distributing the content to the device, not for the content itself.

It does strike me as odd that Amazon is trying to fit the proverbial square peg in a round hole. There must be a more engaging way to present the content than using the blog reading interface. And why not commission a serial project from a capable author and make the content exclusive to the Kindle, or at least make the content exclusive while the book is being serialized? Amazon may argue that it is attempting to keep the price low, which is admirable, but this early adopter would happily pay a few times the current price of .99 cents a month for exclusive content.

What do you think? Does Fallout 101 represent an evolution in the publishing model, or is Fallout an experiment that falls short?

Posted by Kindleville contributor Tyler Steben, author of the Reading Bytes blog.


Yondalla said...

Out of curiosity, I went to check on how much the Kindle2 has deflated the price of used Kindle1's on Amazon -- but I can't even FIND them.

Am I not looking in the right place, or is Amazon not allowing people to sell the old ones anymore? Seems a shame if that would help people upgrade.