The Economist gets “Snappy”

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Since 1843, The Economist has released weekly print editions of their magazine-style newspaper. In October of 2016, the publication took a leap towards rejuvenation and began publishing on Snapchat, one of the most popular apps in the world.

The Economist has been on Snapchat’s Discover page for three years and has paved a new way for print publications to reach the “tap generation.” The Snapchat Discover page is “all about keeping you up-to-date on current events, pop culture, and more.”

Snapchat Discover is where users can find stories- short videos or pictures- from their friends, other Snapchat users, TV shows, and publishers. Publisher stories “are Discover content that is from publishers and other media partners that partner with Snapchat.” Some companies that can be found on the Discover page are The Wall Street JournalNational GeographicThe Washington Post, and The Economist.

When The Economist made its Snapchat debut in 2016, reaching out to an audience via Snapchat wasn’t common for such an established and respectable news company. When Lucy Rohr, the Snapchat editor for The Economist, was met with some questioning from her colleagues, she responded:

How does a 173-year-old publication, known for its global analysis and read by every American president since JFK, fit on a messaging app whose unique selling point is bite-sized, disappearing videos? But think about it for a moment. Snapchat Discover’s audience is forward-looking, globally curious and highly engaged with liberal causes. So The Economist is actually pretty well aligned.

So how does a roughly 80-page news magazine convert its material to fit this new medium? To Rohr the answer is quite simple: it doesn’t.  The goal for the Snapchat extension of The Economist was not to put out another digital form of what they’ve already written. Instead, the idea was to hit a themed subject with each new weekly release.

“Themed editions are an ideal way for us to serve up our analysis in a fun and concise package that’s easy to consume anywhere. It’s what The Economist is known for, and we think this sits well on Snapchat Discover,” Rohr says.

Snapchat is an app that relies heavily on the visual aspect of its content, so Rohr and her team work to create a harmony between the youthful and interactive nature of the app and the professionalism of The Economist’s brand. According to Rohr, the perfect blend is achieved through “crisp, clean layouts, a couple of specific fonts.”

The Snapchat editions of The Economist are formed from a script, which is broken down into a minimum of 14 snaps, or 10 second looping videos or animations, and the visuals for each snap are then planned accordingly. Each individual snap is predominantly an image with highlighted text over it. The text often plays as a teaser, which gives the reader enough information to understand what is being addressed, but leaves them wanting more.  

The interactive feature is brought into play when links to find more information pertaining to a particular snap are added through the “swipe up” feature. Then on the final product, users can swipe up on a snap to follow links that will lead to articles that give readers an in-depth analysis that the teasers hinted at.

According to Rohr:

The design team really nailed it. They came up with a visual treatment that really brings our journalism to life, and brings levity to some of the heavier stuff we’re covering. As much as I want our journalism to set us apart, I think our design does too.

Rohr knows that the task of producing Snapchat editions is not an easy one. “Plenty of what we do can’t be readily translated into a ‘Snappy’ format. We have to take the time to really think about each edition and each snap and how to do it best,” she says. An example of what Discover stories from The Economist look like is on their YouTube channel.

When The Economist made the leap into the world of Snapchat, consumers were concerned that it would be detrimental to the prestige of the company. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, “78% of American internet users between the ages of 18 and 24 used Snapchat in 2018.” The statistics of active Snapchat users in the UK are similar to those in America. The age demographic is rarely a concern of The Economist.

Having a young audience does not worry The Economist’s Snapchat team, though. At the Digital Innovators Summit, Rohr addressed the new demographic saying:

We had to translate our very specific editorial voice to the platform, but we did not ‘dumb ourselves down’ – we realised that to underestimate the intellect of the younger audience, and their discernment, is a real mistake.

Rather than fitting their journalism to the demographic, Rohr and her team prep the demographic for their journalism. Rohr referred to Snapchat editions as “the ultimate cheat sheet ” to being able to comprehensibly read full length articles from The Economist. One of the goals is to provide readers with the vocabulary, context, and “toolkit” needed to understand the company’s specific style of journalism.

As of 2017, The Economist had an average of 7.1 million users visiting their Snapchat stories. Deputy editor and head of digital strategy, Tom Standage, claimed the addition of Snapchat to their repertoire was “the biggest step-change in the audience of The Economist since 1843.”

The Fleeting Nature of Technology

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The internet and technology are either extremely permanent or uniquely fleeting. Your Facebook post from that cute diner a week ago is still there, but the odds of anyone ever needing or wanting to find it again are practically zero. However, efforts like Project Gutenberg strive to preserve literature in a digital format so that generations will have access to it without having to worry about the physical decay of printed books.  

Nonetheless, technologies are always fighting each other for dominance. If someone said the greatest movie in the entire world was only available on HD DVD, and I would probably never make any effort to see it. Blu-ray won the race and proved to be the dominant format. It would be inconvenient to find, buy, and set up an entire piece of technology just for the sake of one movie. Any HD DVD specific art films are lost to the annals of obsolescence and the impermanence of digital content. The world of digital publishing has been and certainly will be affected by the obsolescence of technology: for every preservation project, there’s an art form lost. 

Lost Formats 

Adobe Flash Player has been a staple of internet playback since its release in 1996. It helped revolutionize the way we view content online. It opened up a whole world of games, animation, and multimedia content that has become a staple of the internet. In its early days, YouTube used Flash Player to display videos. As such, it was a safe bet to use Flash Player to create content. Things like “Faith” require Flash to display the E-Poetry, which is fine in a world where Flash player is everywhere. However, time marches on, and technology changes at a rapid pace. CNN Business states the following: 

But the software has been plagued with bugs and security vulnerabilities in recent years. Modern browsers support open web standards like HTML5, allowing developers to embed content directly onto webpages. This has made add-on extensions like Flash mostly useless.

Flash player is being phased out. Its whole deal, as an add-on extension, is becoming obsolete. YouTube moved off of Flash in 2015. HTML5 is simply better than Flash for the purpose that it serves. However, things get lost in the transition. What happens to “Faith” when Flash disappears in 2020? Unless the author/artist or someone else takes the opportunity to recreate, port, or record it, it’s just gone. E-Poetry commonly uses Flash. Some interesting poems are going to simply disappear as a result. It’s not worth it to resurrect a buggy, and vulnerable software just to read/watch avant-garde poetry. 

E-poetry like “Girl’s Day Out” and “Pentametron” bring other interesting questions into play. They are files that can be downloaded. However, they only have versions tailored to Mac or Windows operating systems. That’s completely fine, for the most part, but what about other operating systems? For example, 30 million students and educators use Chromebooks as of January 2019. These files will not run on Chrome OS.  

Most e-poetry does not have the cultural impact of William Shakespeare or Shel Silverstein, but they will be lost to the annals of obsolescence if Mac and Windows go the way of the MS-DOS. Many books are available as PDFs, as well, but we are not guaranteed that PDF will be the primary file type forever. What happens if PDFs disappear? Digital publishing inevitably loses some interesting comics, articles, books, etc. when new technology takes over. Your favorite e-book may be unreadable on your computer ten years from now. 

Corporate Issues 

Planned obsolescence is another tactic that has companies like Apple dodging lawsuits: “Italy’s antitrust organisation is also investigating both Apple and Samsung for the same issue.” The biggest tech companies that make most of the market share’s worth of smartphones no doubt operate like businesses with a bottom line rather than preservation efforts. Tech marches on organically like in the case of the swap from Flash to HTML5, but it also happens when companies need to meet deadlines.  

Entire marketplaces may become obsolete in the future. It has already happened as Rachel Ward points out: 

Microsoft’s discontinuation of their e-bookstore means that consumers will no longer be able to access and view Microsoft’s e-books. Customers who purchased the right to view the e-books within the past two years from the company are now unable to read them.

Microsoft created the store and limited it to the Edge browser to try and boost its use in the market. It didn’t garner enough traction, and now the store disappeared. With no physical trace, the entire store simply disappears. If you don’t get to your library in time for whatever reason, those books are gone.  

The only thing that Microsoft offered was a full refund and an extra $25 if you added annotations according to Brian Barrett. He goes on to point out the cold reality: “And because of digital rights management—the mechanism by which platforms retain control over the digital goods they sell—you have no recourse.” The books are gone. 

While things like Project Gutenberg release books freely to download forever, the big companies like Amazon are tied to digital rights management. You simply license books from Amazon’s digital marketplace in the same way that you did from Microsoft. If those stores become obsolete, you’ll likely lose access to any purchases that you’ve made past a certain point.  

Amazon has quietly removed books from libraries before. They were missing the proper rights to a version of George Orwell’s 1984, so therefore, readers were missing the proper rights, as well. It was removed from the store without fanfare. The interesting thing is that it wasn’t only removed from the store—it was deleted from readers’ devices.  

Consumers are inextricable from the services they use. This connectedness is useful and handy so long as the services continue to operate. In the case of e-readers, we have instant access to thousands upon thousands of books. However, this necessitates that consumers are left crippled if the service is discontinued. We’ve seen it in the case of Microsoft discontinuing their store, and one day, Amazon’s library may be removed, as well. It will have been obsolete for a long time, by then, but many books are published only through Amazon—they will be gone. 

Technology is a business, primarily. Consumers, readers in particular, depend on this technology to consume art old and new. Due to the evolution of technology, companies pushing new products, and the fact that digital rights do not physically exist, obsolescence has been and will be a permanent problem in the world of digital publishing. 

Digital Publishing in the Developing World

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In developed countries, the Internet provides a sufficient medium for digital publishing. The transition from print to digital has changed the way consumers receive and circulate different forms of content.  In developing countries, however, the transition is considerably slower. Constraints (e.g., pricing, government opposition, and limited readership) on publishers based in developing countries leave them to play catch up with rest of the world.

The shift from print to digital serves as a reminder that the progression of the digital market drives change in society that helps to shape “the future of publishing.”

The Publishing Market

Digital publishing is a lucrative business, if done correctly.  According to Jens Bammel, author of From Paper to Platform:  Publishing, Intellectual Property and the Digital Revolution, “the global book market is worth approximately 145 billion US dollars, making publishing one of the largest creative industries in the world.” Two-thirds of the world’s “global publishing business” is attributed to the six world’s largest markets.

Bammel writes that the largest publishing market is found in the U.S., worth more than $37.25 billion. China comes in at second, worth more than $22.25 billion. Third is Germany at more than $10 billion then the UK at $6.5 billion, Japan at $6 billion, France at $4.25 billion, and India at $3.75 billion.

The facade of large nations being able to support the publishing industry is uncanny, as the markets have been declining.  However, the substantial growth in countries, such as Brazil, China, and India shows the dependence on “the economic middle class” and their values in “education, reading, self-actualization, intellectual discourse and culture.”

Government Opposition

Governments, worldwide, control different aspects of the lives of the people they are meant to serve. The education system, for example, is an important aspect of a functioning country. Likewise, having adequate textbooks should be a priority. According to Bammel:

High-quality textbooks are vital to education in developing and emerging economies. Education is one of the first areas of investment for any emerging economy, but where resources are limited, qualified teachers are in short supply and classes are large, a good education depends on textbooks.

For some countries, such as Norway, Greece, Poland, and Switzerland, textbooks are published only for their exclusive use. The exclusivity sparks debate about a lack of diversity and how it can lead to the enforcement of the government’s agenda on young and impressionable audiences. Similarly, some countries alter history textbooks to portrays their country in a positive light, as can be seen in American textbooks.

William Wresch, writer of “e-Commerce Innovations in the Book Publishing Industry: Opportunities for the Developing World” states:

Governments can be significant aids to publishers by sending school textbook contracts their way, but they can also become quick enemies of publishing houses if local despots begin to feel the books being published threaten their lifetime reigns. 

Brazil, Africa, China, and several other countries are under strict guidelines for publishing.  Wresch notes that “The most significant barrier to publishing recently has been the imprisonment, exile, or murder of authors.” As a method of combating strict and unforgiving governments, some authors have taken to micropublishing.

In “What Is Micro-Publishing? A Thorough Definition,” Christina Katz writes, “Micro-publishing means that every person is a publisher.” In short, it is self-publishing. Though content will most likely only spread locally, producing several volumes should be relatively safe if the government of the nation is left unaware.

Limited Readership

Readership can be affected by poverty, illiteracy, and a language barrier. Countries that share one or more languages can guarantee a wider spectrum of people reading their content. In countries where the first or second language is English, it is easy to publish in English and know there will be a readership present, within the country and around the world. Wresch states:

Publishers in developing countries can follow suit and publish in English, but then they may have very limited local readership. Or they can publish in the local language and forego any chance at international sales.

A possible solution is teaching young children their mother tongue and another language, to increase readership and give publishing companies more business, thus promoting literacy. Technology continues to advance, giving way to the promotion of different textbooks and leading to a broader international audience.  

Though digital publishing in the developing world is temporarily stunted, the transition from print to digital shines a light on the developing countries’ prospect of growth.  For accessibility’s sake, developed countries should aid in the publishing endeavors of the developing countries, to encourage growth of the country and educational opportunities for its people.

OMG, E-Poetry Is Awesome

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E-Poetry is the wackiest thing ever that I wish I had known about before now. A poem that moves in real-time with the ocean; that’s a thing. I want to share some of the poems I learned about through researching for this article with you so that more people can be aware of this burgeoning, intriguing, dynamic means of expression.

Before I – someone who I recently learned is woefully unqualified to talk about this subject – provide a definition of what e-poetry is, here’s a video of that ocean poem I mentioned just a moment ago: Channel of the North . According to an author statement on, “Channel of the North grows and shrinks as a function of the tide in the Westerschelde river on the Dutch/Belgian border.” That’s so cool. and is just one of many ways that digital spaces give poets different ways to play with language and form.

What is e-poetry though? According to this webpage,

digital poetry is not text poetry simply distributed on the web or put into electronic form: it uses the properties of the digital medium in a meaningfully distinct manner. Norbert Bachleitner offers a somewhat spare definition of digital poetry, as ‘innovative works with specific qualities that cannot be displayed on paper’ (303); a better basic definition might be a literary work which depends integrally for its form on the operation of digital processes on an electronic device, and which has poetic qualities of semantic richness and meaningful form.

So, I suppose e-poetry is simply whatever one can loosely define as something we can call poetry that utilizes the very digital environment to express and do things in ways print simply can’t do.

Now, let’s get back to looking at cool ways that people have played with the digital environment and poetry. But, before we do though, please note that a lot of these poems require extensions such as Flash Player. Consequently, some of the poems may be impossible to view depending on the device you are using. I struggled to find viewable poems, so I will try to post videos that show the poem being viewed, as well as the link where you can play with the poem yourself.

My favorite poem I found is called Faith, by Robert Kendall. You can watch/interact with it by clicking here: Faith. If you’re as confused and baffled as I was, here’s an author description on that describes the poem as:

a kinetic poem that reveals itself in five successive states. Each new state is overlaid onto the previous one, incorporating the old text into the new. Each new state absorbs the previous one while at the same time engaging in an argument with it. The gradual textual unfolding is choreographed to music.

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the jargon being used to describe the poems, but basically kinetic poetry is where the words move and bump around. Furthermore, the poem itself unfolds through time and is read and/or watched as the poems move and reveal meaning and more words. For example, the words logic dropping from the top of the screen and bumping into the word faith in the poem, Faith.

 If you’re still here, check out this video of the poem by David Knoebel: ThoughtsGo. The poem plays by clicking on the yellow dot and holding down the mouse button; if you stop holding the button down then the sounds and visuals stop. Here’s a link where you can play with ThoughtsGo. What’s super cool about this poem is explained in the author statement, “This press and hold action is the physical manifestation of a held thought, which stands in contrast to the fleeting thoughts described in the work.” So. Freaking. Cool.

If you want to play with something really weird, check out this thing: Carving in Possibilities , by Deena Larsen. I don’t even know what’s going on here, but I like it. Thankfully, (praise be unto, has our back covered with an author description of Carving in Possibilities: “Carving in Possibilities is a short Flash piece. By moving the mouse, the user carves the face of Michelangelo’s David out of speculations about David, the crowd watching David and Goliath, the sculptor, and the crowds viewing the sculpture.” Where in the world did these authors come up with this stuff!?

Another cool way people are experimenting with digital poetry is through how programs can generate poetry. Automation, by Andrew Campana, is a “generative poem” where “Every 8 seconds, a script generates a new line by randomly selecting the platform number, subject, verb, and exhortation from a preset list.” If the link above to Automation doesn’t work, here’s a video you can watch that shows how comical the poem can be: Automation Video (start at 0:59 to skip to where it begins presenting lines of verse).

Campana’s, Automation, isn’t the only type of automated verse creator though. For example, “Poem.exe is a micropoetry bot, assembling haiku-like poems throughout the day and publishing them on Twitter and Tumblr,” according to the author statement on The little guy just keeps spittin’ out poems to this day. You can find Liam Cooke’s micropoetry bot churning out poetry on Twitter, here.

Something I never saw coming, and the final bit I want to show you, is how poets are playing with augmented reality.  Check out this video:  Digital pop-up book: Between Page And Screen. I personally was not able to experience this since I don’t have access to a webcam right now. However, you can download and print a sample to try it out with at

There is honestly no telling what poets are going to come up with next, and I’m excited to keep up with what people are inventing in the world of literature. If you’re interested, go to and check out their collections found under the projects tab. Did you know that Margaret invented a kimchi poetry machine? there’s so much to explore and look at. I hope y’all have fun!

Audiobooks Continue to Increase in Popularity

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Instant, downloadable media has had a prolific effect on the preference of book consumption. Despite print books remaining the primary form of reading, audiobook sales have seen a continuous climb over the last few years; meanwhile, e-book sales have experienced a steady decrease in sales. In a rapidly moving society, the need to listen to books while on the go showcases the importance of easy accessibility – hence, the rise of audiobooks.

The Growth of Audiobooks

Good E-reader  reports that audiobook sales have been growing rapidly in recent years, becoming the “fastest growing segment in digital publishing.” Research completed by the Audiobook Publishers Association and Edison Research discovered that “audiobook listeners read or listened to an average of 15 books in the last year, and 57% of listeners agreed or strongly agreed that audiobooks help you finish more books.”

With the ease and simplicity through which audiobooks can be acquired and listened to, it’s no surprise that readers in an ever-busy generation at times feel more inclined to check out audiobooks over e-books. According to Audiobook Publishers Association’s 2018 report on consumer book publishers’ revenue stats (Links to an external site.)

The most noticeable increase was in audiobook sales, jumping by 37.1%, an additional $127.1 million since 2017. The AAP notes that downloaded audio (as opposed to physical audiobook formats) has been the format with the most growth since 2013. “This is the third consecutive year that audiobooks saw double-digit growth (+37.1%) and eBook revenue declined (-3.6%),” the AAP report says.

The report states that e-book sales have experienced a steady decline since 2017, with an even more drastic decline occurring in 2015 when “e-book units fell 13%.”

The target audience for audiobooks are listeners under the age of 45, who constitute 54% of audiobook listeners. However, the Publisher’s Weekly article “Audiobook Revenue Jumped 22.7% in 2018 ” states that consumers who primarily read via audiobooks also constitute a large portion of the e-book consumers as “83% of frequent listeners also read a hardcover or paperback over the last 12 months, and 79% also read an e-book,” with print books still remaining the most popular form of reading.

Audiobook listeners primarily utilize smartphones as a way of listening to their audiobooks as “73% of listeners used a smartphone to listen to audiobooks at some point in the year, and 47% of listeners chose a smartphone as their listening device on a regular basis.” Since 74% of audiobook consumers  listen to audiobooks while in the car, smartphones provide a simple way of easily accessing multiple audiobook platforms and extensive libraries of titles.

Audiobook Platforms

With the rise in audiobook sales, digital publishing has also seen a rise in audiobook listening platforms. According to TechRadar (Links to an external site.), the best sites for audiobooks are Audible, Google Audiobooks, Kobo Audiobooks, Librivox, and Downpour.

Audible is Amazon’s audiobook site, the “biggest name in the world of audiobooks” with a wide selection of titles. It has two subscription plans: for $14.95 or £7.99 a month, subscribers “can download one audiobook per month.” For $22.95 or £14.99 a month, readers can download two. Audible also offers a 30 – day free trial (one book free of charge).

Google Audiobooks is the most recent option in the Google Play store. Techradar writer Cat Ellis states that “The newly minted service is clearly designed as a rival to Audible, with Google making a virtue of the fact that books are sold individually, with no subscription.

Kobo Audiobooks, launched in 2017 by e-reader producer Kobo, is less extensive than Amazon’s Audible, but boasts a cheaper subscription price at “$9.99/£6.99/AU$12.99.” Like Audible, Kobo offers the option of purchasing audiobooks separately, without a subscription.

LibriVox is unlike the other sites which offer newly released titles for purchase. LibriVox is a free-to-listen audiobook site that holds titles available in the public domain. Interesting to note, while Audible and other sites utilize celebrities and authors as their readers, LibriVox is volunteer based, allowing users to participate in the audiobook reading.

 Downpour, another subscription-based site, is similar to audiobook as users buy one credit (enough for one audiobook) for $12.99 a month. If users decide to end the subscription, they are allowed to retain their purchases.

The Future of Audiobooks

Non-book publishers are beginning to notice the rise in audiobook sales, and have subsequently began to publish columns and reviews on audiobook bestsellers. The New York Times has started releasing an audiobook bestsellers list published monthly.

“The vibrant growth of audiobooks in the industry has created a need for an impartial, reliable source for tracking and reporting the top-selling audiobooks across the country,” said Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review. “The Times recognizes the increased reader and listener interest in audiobooks, as well as in the Book Review’s increasing depth of coverage of audiobooks, and we’re thrilled we’ll be able to provide them independent data they can rely on.”

The bestseller for October (Links to an external site.) (as of right now) is “The Institute” by Stephen King.

Good E-reader reports that “major publishers have confirmed to Good e-Reader that 1 out of every 10 books sold is in the audio format, a percentage far higher than just a few years ago.” The article also quotes David Shelley, the CEO of Hachette UK (the second-biggest publishing company in Britain) as saying

Audio is not a blip…Audiobooks could be one of the biggest parts of our business. It has doubled in the last two years. It is a completely different way of transmitting our books to people. I would put some money on it that audio is going to continue being a central piece of our business going forward.

Audiobooks have even started being sold (again) in record format, branching back out from the digital sphere back into physical copies. For example, HarperCollins has recently released a vinyl version of the popular children’s books A Series of Unfortunate EventsThe Bad Beginning, the first book in the series is now available for $24.98 on HarperCollins website, featuring “a transparent sea foam green record and full-length digital download of theaudiobook narrated by Tim Curry.

With 2019 audiobook consumer reports showing that audiobook sales are continuing to rise and publishers defending this research with affirmative statements surrounding the position of audiobooks in their companies, the future of audiobooks has never looked so bright.

Getting Hooked on Reading

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Hooked entices young people to fall for reading hook, line, and sinker. The company aims to engage teenagers and millennials through a near-voyeuristic experience via fictionalized text message stories. Prerna Gupta, Co-Founder of Hooked, claims:

The way we consume content is changing dramatically, especially in younger generations. For example, a majority of young adult novels are being read digitally now in the U.S., and that’s increasingly happening on mobile. But the way that books are created hasn’t changed in centuries.

Hooked allows readers to select stories presented as a text message conversation between characters through a mobile app.  Anthony Ha from TechCrunch explains that instead of flipping pages, taps summon the next text. The app includes stand-alone stories and chapter series that reach about 1,000 words. Users are offered several free stories along with a charged option for unlimited access of $2.99 for a week, $7.99 for a month, and $39.99 for a year.

The History of Hooked

Prerna Gupta and Parag Chordia previously worked as successful app developers before they founded Hooked, the self-proclaimed “future of storytelling”. After Gupta experienced a panic attack about the uncertainty of their novel and its lack of a typical protagonist, the pair decided to test a selection of their novel on an app and track audience response. They realized that the audience barely finished even the limited best seller excerpts as Gupta explains:

People say that reading is dying. But we refused to believe this. Storytelling is fundamental to humans; some believe it is the essence of humanity. The demand for great stories is ever present. Fiction must evolve with the times.

After attempting various approaches to encourage audience completion, the couple decided to test out text message stories. They discovered that the format appeals to young audiences for several reasons: the text message style ensures brevity, encourages intimacy in storytelling, and feels familiar to an uber tech-literate audience.

What Hooked Has to Offer

Hooked hires college students to write fiction stories for the app. The writers then produce more pieces in the genres that receive the most engagement. Romance and horror top the list of the most popular genres among their teen audience with endless chapters available and an option for subscribers to self-publish.

The success behind the frivolous content centers around young people reading to completion on the app. The content also fits precisely with readers’ parameters for time consumption, tone, and style, which promotes returning readership. Forbes’ Adam Rowe describes the challenge of the text style content: “To keep the audience engaged, you have to be pithy and keep the story moving along at a brisk pace.”

The Market’s Take

Readers are obsessed with Hooked. Gupta claims that “rather than destroy reading, Hooked makes reading engaging for a broad audience. We’ve heard from many teens who say they hate reading books, but they love reading in Hooked. It’s a gateway drug.” Overall, the app boasts 10 million subscribed readers, with over 20 million downloads. Gupta also states that the audience has “collectively reading over 10 billion fictional text messages in the app” and written “a million chat stories of their own, directly from their phones.”

This enterprise offers real-time data about audience interaction along with providing a unique reading experience for their teen readers. Along with the success from their innovation and versatility, the app has also secured substantial investments since its initial conception in 2015.

What Hooked Created

The most business-oriented use results from the app’s original purpose: a/b testing storylines. Gupta told the LA Times, “I think it can push the boundaries for Hollywood in experimenting with new storylines and diverse characters. If you can test stories … you could take out some of the guesswork.”

The app’s analytics resulted in three main conclusions about audience reading patterns that differ from current industry practice. First, the point of view doesn’t matter; readers connect the same with first present as they do third past. Second, readers seldom engage if the piece begins in media res. Third, the race and gender of the protagonist make no difference in engagement, aside from teenage girls actually preferring female leads. Michelle Castillo from CNBC says that Hooked’s audience is “18 and 24, with 69 percent under the age of 25. The average user, however, is 25, and more than half are female.”

This analytic function serves both writers and publishers who are looking to test new material, along with Hollywood execs searching for the latest piece, as David Drake of The Huffington Post writes:

[Gupta’s] team is using this data to transform the content industry and Hollywood is catching on as film studios can test stories in the same way before production. This is the reason why investors, including Greg Silverman, President of Warner Brothers, has invested in the app.

Hooked also creates other avenues of content such as spoiler sites and featured series. One of the spoiler sites, Hooked Stories, publishes complete stories and popular chapters from Hooked free of charge. These sites essentially poach content for readers and capitalize on the app’s paywall.

Featured series, such as “Dark Matter,” are produced for platforms like Snapchat. Todd Spangler describes the series as a “multimedia series [that] blends the chat-fiction format” with voice-overs and illustrations. The featured series last longer than a standard Hooked story and draw massive audiences to the platforms.

Hooked has been enticing readers since 2015 and ranked among the Apple store’s top apps since 2017. The tailored series, which are available in more than seven languages, attracts readers without demanding excessive amounts of the readers’ time. The understanding of readership Hooked provides also proves that audiences, such as the arts, are changing. With an ever-growing audience base, this app has truly transformed fiction reading from flipping through pages to swiping through text messages for a watchers’ perspective.

Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Oasis

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For years the e-reader market has been dominated by the Amazon Kindle. Amazon continues to produce devices for consumers looking for more book-like e-readers as well as those who desire a more technologically advanced e-reader. This article will be exploring the newest installments of two of the most highly ranked Amazon Kindles: Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Oasis.

What is Kindle Paperwhite?

Consumers are falling in love with Paperwhite for being the most advanced Kindle with the most budget-friendly price tag. By combining the affordability and durability of the original Paperwhite model with the Bluetooth and waterproof features of the pricier Kindle Oasis, the newest Kindle Paperwhite has become one of the bestselling e-readers.

Kindle Paperwhite is one of the most popular Kindles in the franchise. Amazon has improved this device by waterproofing and adding more storage. Users are now free to read by the beach, pool, or bath at their leisure  without the worry of getting the device wet.

According to Jeffery Van Camp, “for a couple extra Jacksons, it opens up the joys of reading in the pool, beach, and bathtub without fear. The display is flush, and the device is rated IPX8, meaning it can sit in 2 meters of water for two hours.”

The previous Kindle holds a battery that takes at least three hours to charge, and many consumers found the battery endurance to be gravitating; for such an extensive charging time, the battery did not seem to last as long as it should have. The Kindle Paperwhite, however, can last for weeks at a time, depending on usage, before needing to be recharged and it only takes about 90 minutes to be fully charged.

Paperwhite now has Audible so consumers can listen to their audiobooks through Bluetooth speakers. With the addition of Audible, the device’s storage capacity has increased in order to hold more audiobooks, which require more storage space.

 Avery Hartmans explains, “… Amazon increased by a lot on the new Paperwhite. You can now buy the device with 8 GB of storage or 32 GB of storage. The latter should be more than enough space for all your e-books.” The storage available on this device is comparable to that of the Kindle Oasis, which is almost double the price of Paperwhite. 

Consumer Reviews

A feature appreciated by most Paperwhite users is the device’s simplistic design. According to Jason Snell & Dan Moren:

I found the display to be appreciably better quality than on the base model, with higher contrast and more consistent lighting. The display on the Paperwhite is also flush with the front bezel, so there are no nooks and crannies for lint and dust and crumbs to get stuck.

On top of the sleek yet simple design, consumers also enjoy the fact that they do not feel the need to put a protective covering on their device thanks to its durability.

Consumer David Carnoy says the bottom line is that the Kindle Paperwhite “is more durable, fully dunkable, and ultimately the best Kindle reader for most people — especially if you snag it during one of Amazon’s frequent sales.”

While the design of the device is highly praised, consumers should be aware that the Paperwhite does not have a built-in headphone jack. This means that for those wanting to listen to audiobooks, they will need to have a Bluetooth speaker or wireless headphones. According to Max Parker of Trusted Reviews, “during my time with the device, I didn’t ever experience any issues with connection or pairing – both were solid.”

Advantages of Paperwhite

  • Price: $119.99
  • Light Weight
  • Bluetooth
  • High Storage Capacity
  • Longer Battery Life
  • Durability

Reading Material Available for Download

  • Kindle Unlimited
  • Comics
  • E-books
  • Magazines

 What Is Kindle Oasis?

Described as “frivolously awesome,” the Kindle Oasis is the highest quality e-reader created by Amazon as of 2019. Van Camp explains:

The Oasis is more expensive than two Kindle Paperwhites—but it’s an absolute joy to use. The 2019 version has 25 LED lights to make its screen glow evenly (double the previous version), and you can adjust it to give off a more pleasant, warm orange glow.

Lightweight, waterproof, and Bluetooth, the Kindle Oasis offers the same basics of the Paperwhite, but on a more extreme scale. The price of the Kindle Oasis stumps many individuals because they do not understand how a Kindle could be worth this nearly $300 price point. While Kindle Oasis is admittedly expensive, it offers the highest quality experience for e-reader lovers. 

Just like the Kindle Paperwhite, there is no headphone-jack available with the Oasis, but the device does include Bluetooth. 

Consumer Reviews

According to the Amazon Kindle Oasis 2019 review by Samuel Gibbs, “Amazon’s most expensive, luxury e-reader, the Kindle Oasis, has taken a leaf out of the modern smartphone’s book for 2019 with a colour adjustable light that gets warmer as the sun sets.” 

David Phelan, a Forbes Consumer Tech writer, says:

Although I’d still maintain that nothing compares to a real book, this is the best e-book reader in terms of reading, for sure. Amazon has worked to improve parts of the software, so it’s much harder to lose your place than before.

As far as price goes, Courtney Jespersen says “if you treat your e-reader like a tablet, go for the Oasis.”

Advantages of Oasis

  • Price: $289.99
  • Big and Sharp Displays
  • Page-turn Buttons
  • Longest Battery Life
  • Most Lightweight Edition
  • More built-in LED Lights

Reading Material Available for Download

  • Kindle unlimited book
  • Audiobooks
  • Magazines
  • Comics
  • Amazon Prime Readings

While these new and improved e-readers may not look so different from their predecessors, the internal improvements are what keep users coming back for more.  With must-have devices like the Paperwhite and Oasis, it is clear why consumers flock to Amazon for their e-reader needs. 

The Magic of Web Comics

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Web comics are a wonderful example of how digital publishing can reach beyond just delivering black-and-white text to readers and exemplifies the digital realm’s near-limitless possibilities. While web comics started out as an obscure moon orbiting the planet of digital publishing, content creators have since colonized it into a little world of their own.

Web Comic History

Modern web comics predate the world wide web. Eric Monster Millikin, a pioneer internet artist and social activist, laid claim to the first web comic: a parody of the Wizard of Oz called “Witches in Stitches” that he self-published on a CompuServe server in 1985. However, Hanz Bjordahl’s Where the Buffalo Roam was the first thing resembling what we would call a web comic today.

The world’s love for comics created a desire to share them in any way possible. The creation of the internet – the ultimate sharing tool – caused the slow trickle of comics to become a flood. David Farley’s gag strip, Doctor Fun, was the first regularly updated internet comic with its own website in 1993.  

In The Verge Cat Ferguson said,  “…in those early days, webcomics were some of the most influential pieces of the early-ish internet — vibrant and weird. They formed followings, which became communities, which became culture.” Internet comics became their own culture and have helped shape the world of internet humor, as well as art, to this day.

Like video games, message boards, and social media, web comics have become a cornerstone of the internet.

Web Comics, a New Frontier

Garrity mentions that web comic authors “began to colonize [the internet] with comics, mostly black-and-white, newspaper-style strips.” However, digital screens are capable of more than mimicking paper. 

A web comic’s real magic lies in the things that cannot be done in traditional print. Garrity notes an important moment in 1995 that would alter the course of web comic history: 

Well do I remember sitting in front of my uncle’s modem-enabled computer in 1995, waiting half an hour for each page of Charley Parker’s full-color, animation-embedded, visually experimental Argon Zark! to load. Story-wise, Argon Zark! is geeky simplicity itself… But Parker was playing with flashy and imaginative visual ideas when most webcartoonists were still drawing basic art with BASIC gags. 

Web comics boomed in the late ‘90s as pioneering artists began to explore the medium. 

How Web Comics Direct Our Gaze

With traditional print comics, and even simply drawn web comics, there is nothing stopping the readers from looking at the “wrong” spot in the comic. Sure, authors can draw your gaze; but with digital screens, artists can direct your gaze.

The Team Fortress 2 web comic is an excellent example of how a comic can direct a reader’s gaze. When readers open up the first panel of a comic it seems simplistic; the art is bare, and maybe only half of the digital panel is filled. A simple command along the bottom of the screen changes the game: “Click image or use space bar to advance.”

The TF comics only display what the authors want the reader to see at any given point. Clicking reveals extra panels on some pages of the comic. The comic also allows writers to present real-time modifications of what is already in a given panel at any time; one character’s expression may change, or a new drawing may supersede the current panel. Furthermore, an entirely new drawing may overlay what was already on the screen. 

The author never has to fear that a reader will be confused by the arrangement of panels on a page if the grids themselves appear in the correct order. Timing is an important aspect of comedy, and Team Fortress comics strive for a lot of humor. Punchlines in a web comic retain the power to surprise an audience much more reliably than a print comic. 

Many web comics also insert animations within their panels to great effect. An excellent example is the Mr. Lovenstein comic, “Pushy.” Sure, an author can convey button-mashing in other ways, but the best way to convey the joke is by simply having the character within the comic mash the button repeatedly; the comic only gets funnier the more that readers watch it—which is only possible on a digital screen. 

The Shapes and Sizes of Web Comics

Web comics are not bound by traditional size constraints required of print comics. Traditional comics require strips to fit into certain sizes and shapes that xkcd consistently resists. The comic, “I’m Sorry,” has a completely different shape than “How Old,” which has a completely different form than “Earth Orbital Diagram.” Randall Munroe is confined only by his imagination when it comes to the size and shape of his comic. 

LINE Webtoon is another popular website, and application, for reading web comics that approaches the shaping of comics from an interesting angle. What Webtoon offers is the equivalent of selling comics as scrolls since grids in comics confuse readers all the time. Panels run vertically, and readers progress through the comics by scrolling from the top to the bottom of comic pages. In an article from Medium, Webtoon explains that: 

The transition from flipping through pages to scrolling down a monitor screen has given more freedom to readers in terms of story tempo and flow. Absence of grid freed the genre of cartoon from the limitations of layout and gave authors more space to experiment with each panel. 

Authors can extend the comic-reading experience and add tension to comics; tempo and flow become tools of the trade on Webtoon rather than the liabilities of more traditional formats.  

Web Comics Allow Reader Interaction

Users have a unique amount of interaction with authors that is impossible in print publications. An excellent example is SrGrafo who comments on Reddit posts with quickly drawn comics that act as jokes or puns on the subject at hand.

Another example of user interaction is Existential Comics, a strip thatalways has specific and obscure references to philosophers. At the end of each comic there are links to information about the philosophers that streamline the process of learning what the joke means for readers not philosophically inclined. 

Cyanide and Happiness takes a fun spin on things and has a section on its website called “Random Comic Generator” that is based on their physical card game Joking Hazard, but allows for a heightened level of interactivity. The generator is a work of art by an author in comic format; a huge part of why it is art is the quick and simple user interaction. A button takes up significantly less space than Joking Hazard and its expansions. 

Web comics helped create the internet culture that we have today. They have taken comics and removed many of the traditional constraints associated with the medium. Digital Publishing allows authors to experiment with timing, tension, animation, and even direct citations in ways that traditional print comics only dream about. 

The Aesthetics of E-book Publication

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When writing an e-book, one of the biggest considerations concerning the aesthetics of the publication is that of profit. Knowing the market is important for the publication of any work -physical or electronic – but the e-book market has special considerations, including whether the length of the work effects its earnings. Overall, while shorter e-books sell the best, it is the content of the work itself that really makes a difference in e-book sales.

Length, Genre, and the E-book Market

Every genre has a different average number of pages per book. The word count depends on what the author wants to achieve with their work. The author has to both consider their audience – some audiences prefer longer books with extensive details, while others enjoy books with simple, easy to follow plotlines – and examine how much content they have to write about. According to Catia Shattuck (Links to an external site.), writer for Book Cave (Links to an external site.), “The average nonfiction [print] book is about 50,000 to 75,000 words, which is about 153 to 230 ebook pages. A minimum [word] count for a nonfiction ebook is about 10,000 words, as long as the content is solid.”

Meanwhile, works of fiction average “about 80,000 to 100,000 words, which is about 246 to 307 ebook pages.”  The shortest of all the book genres is fiction novellas. Shattuck says that “fiction novellas are usually 32,000 to 55,000 words, which is 100 to 170 ebook pages. Short stories are even shorter (of course), but are often 99 cents or free because readers will feel cheated otherwise.”

I have personally felt that I can read e-books much quicker than I can read physical print books – though this may be because e-books tend to be shorter.  Derek Haines (Links to an external site.), writer for Just Publishing Advice, said “By chance, I was looking at the Amazon Kindle Store and clicked on an ebook listed in the top twenty bestsellers. I scanned down the book’s details and was surprised to note that the ebook was listed as being only 105 pages in length.” (105 pages is about the length of an average fiction novella.)

Shorter e-books tend to sell better because of the nature of e-books. People carry their e-readers with them almost everywhere they go, and can quickly take them out in the airport, coffee shop, wine bar, and doctor office waiting room. Haines writes,

All of these situations though are prone to interruption, unlike reading a long work of speculative fiction while in bed or lazing on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon. In these situations, light, short reads would make sense and would give a good reason as to why short ebooks are popular and sell well. Sure, there are reasons to publish long, but it appears that there is definitely a new reading market, for selling short stories. For authors, it creates new possibilities. It opens the door to write short story collections, novellas or prose fiction.

E-book Pricing

There are quite a few other factors when it comes to pricing of e-books, including the popularity of the author. A Stephen King novel is obviously going to be more popular than a Kha’Doe Crosby novel, which explains why Stephen King’s new novel is priced at $14.99 in the iBook store while a run-of-the-mill book is priced around $9.99.

Even though popularity plays a big part in pricing, length is still a major consideration. Most customers will feel ripped off if they were forced to pay $15 for an e-book that is only 32 pages. Fiction books prices tend to vary from author to author – at the moment the average price is $9.99.

Non-fiction books can be slightly more expensive than other genres. “Nonfiction ebooks are often shorter than fiction, and yet are generally more expensive,” Shattuck writes. “This is because they require more research and fact-checking and can become valuable resources to readers.”

Overall, when writing a manuscript for an e-book it’s important for writers to remember not to let a designated word count get in the way of their content. Rather than obsessing over the length of a work, writers should look at whether their manuscript has a detailed and cohesive plot, interesting characters, and an introduction and ending that keep readers hooked and looking for more. Though the aesthetic and physical factors of the novel shouldn’t be ignored, ultimately, it’s the content that will sell the e-book to audiences looking for their next literary journey. 

The Reality of Royalties

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Royalty Fees and Writers

As an aspiring writer in the world of digital publishing, you may be wondering how royalty fees relate to your livelihood. Simple: royalties are how you get paid. According to The Bindery article “Royalties: How Do Publishers Pay Authors (Links to an external site.),” there are different types of royalties, the primary type being royalties known as a “list royalty” or a “retail royalty.”

Most publishers in general categories, especially New York publishers, pay authors royalties as a percentage of the retail price of the book, which is an example of list and retail royalties. However, there are many publishers who pay authors “royalties on net sales,” which means that they pay authors their royalty percentage after the discounts the publishers give to retail stores are figured in.

Side note: publishers sell books to bookstores for a range of discounts, sometimes up to half off the cover price or more.

What is a “Royalty”?

A royalty is defined by Investopedia as (Links to an external site.) “a legally-binding payment made to an individual, for the ongoing use of his or her originally-created assets, including copyrighted works, franchises, and natural resources.”

Royalties are written into contracts for musicians, artists, writers, and any other creator whose work is used by another source as a way of compensating the artist for their work.

Royalty payments comprise “a percentage of the gross or net revenues obtained from using the owner’s property.” In order to decide on these payments, a third party and a creator will lay out a “license agreement,” along with the limitations of the royalty, “such as its geographic limitations, the duration of the agreement, and the type of products with particular royalty cuts.”

According to The Balance Small Business (Links to an external site.),

There are a number of ways that franchisors establish what their ongoing royalty fee will be. The most common is a percentage of the Gross Sales that the franchisee earns. Typically this ranges from between five and nine percent. So, essentially, the franchisee is taking in 91-95% of their gross sales with the rest going to the franchisor.

This means that royalty fees are completely up to the franchisor’s discretion, depending on how high or low they wish to make it (although, typically, it’s less than 10%). To summarize, whenever a creator’s work is being used by the franchisors, like a song playing in the background of a commercial, the creator will be paid a set percentage of the income the franchisor makes from said advertisement (decided upon in a license agreement).

The payment of a royalty comes in the form of a “royalty check” – a check a creator gets for the use of their work. As RSG Media (Links to an external site.) states,

When you write a book, royalty check is the royalties earned from sale of every copy. When you compose a song, royalty is when someone performs it professionally or purchases your CD. You can also earn royalty from your land or property, if someone purchases your mineral rights. The amount of gas or oil produced will provide you a royalty. You can earn royalty checks annually, half-yearly or quarterly, depending upon the royalty agreement.

Royalty vs. License

Here’s where the importance of reading your contract comes into play as some confusion can occur concerning the difference between royalties and licenses. A license is defined by RSG Media (Links to an external site.) as “an agreement between two parties for using someone’s property without paying any money for it.” Whereas a royalty insinuates a payment for the use of the creator’s work, a license allows the third party to use the work without having to actually pay anything for it.

Licenses have what’s known as a licensing fee, which is “an amount of money paid by an individual or business to the licensor, which is mostly government, for enjoying the privilege of being licensed to use someone else property” for a set period of time.

The Licensor receives a perpetual/time bound payment as a percentage of sales in regards for using the intellectual property. You can take for example – an earning from copyright, patent on new products, and consumer product licensing more.

Royalties and licenses are members of same family; these terms are just two faces of same coin.

Know Your Contract

With any kind of contract, there is room for suspicious activity. When one party ignores the contract and goes outside the bounds of the licensing agreement, it’s up to the other party to decide whether to stay with the agreement and risk another breach of contract or terminate the license agreement altogether.

One such case involving a breach of a license agreement involves a toy creator and a line of baby toys. According to Markowitz Herbold PC (Links to an external site.),

A toy inventor sold his entire line of baby toy products to a large toy company in exchange for royalties on the future sales of his products.  The royalty agreement, which spanned many years, contained separate royalty rates for different categories of toys, including a rate for toys that had already been commercialized by the inventor (“original toys”), and another rate for toys that were “derived from” these original toys.   

Though the company paid royalty fees for the sales of a multitude of toys, the toy maker stated that it “misclassified toys” to keep from paying more fees. The toy maker then had to decide whether to sue for the previous grievances or terminate the contract entirely and try to get payment for the remainder of the agreement.

In the end, the toy maker ended the license agreement and “sued to recover the future royalties that he would have earned under the royalty agreement if the toy company had not breached the agreement.”

It is always important to understand the terms of ending a licensing agreement.

If the terminating party revokes the licensee’s right to use its intellectual property, the licensee may have to pull products off shelves.  If the licensor’s initial termination was not justified, the licensor may be held responsible for the licensee’s damages. In the inventor’s case, the toy company counter-sued for breach of contract, in part based on what it claimed was the inventor’s improper termination of the contract.

The result of early termination is usually laid out in the license agreement as a “royalty agreement’s termination provision standards.”

As a new writer, it can be intimidating trying to understand contracts saturated in unfamiliar legal jargon, especially when your focus is sharing your work with the world. However, understanding the contract is of the highest importance when making sure you are getting your full rights as a creator.

The biggest lesson a writer can gain from this article is to find a good editor/manager to help and ALWAYS READ YOUR CONTRACT. Then, maybe you can one day watch Jon Snow quote your poem in a car commercial or hear your song playing in the aisles of Target as you buy caramel popcorn.

With a proper understanding of your contract and the ability to write something worth selling, the world is at your fingertips and the royalties will be in your pocket.