Fast Company and TechCrunch have the lead on a new reading service that is reviving cellphone novels under a new name. Developed by husband-and-wife team Parag Chordia and Prerna Gupta, Hooked serves up stories in the form of text messages. According to Gupta, each story is written so that the reader will “go through an entire narrative arc in five minutes and consume it in a way that’s native to mobile”.
In other words, it’s flash fiction.
This form of fiction has been around for a couple decades (longer, if you count comic strips). It can be found on many sites, including fanfic sites, Wattpad, and Tumblr, although this is perhaps the first time that I know of that it has been developed into its own app.
Hooked lets you read one story a day for free, and if you would like to read more than that then you’ll have to subscribe. Unlimited access cost anywhere between $3 a week and $40 a year.
The stories are all commissioned by Telepathic, but their long term plans include turning Hooked into a writing platform on the model of Wattpad or Medium, only with a focus on much shorter works. “Long-term, our goal is for everyone inside the app to have the ability to write,” Gupta says. “One of the things we hope Hooked will do is encourage more people to write fiction and to understand that we all have the ability to express ourselves in this way,”
I don’t know how much success they’ll have. The one story I started to read did not keep my attention past the tenth text message, nor did it inspire me to subscribe.
And frankly, Gupta’s and Chordia’s motivation and inspiration for the idea certainly don’t warm me to the idea. From TechCrunch:
Chordia compared their vision for Telepathic with the work they did at Smule and Khush, taking an existing art form (previously music, and now fiction), then “rethinking how does it fit into people’s lives.”
“We don’t think fiction’s dying,” Gupta added — but they do think there are ways to improve “the way it’s currently presented and produced.”
So with Hooked, they’re commissioning short stories that take the form of text message conversations. Instead of turning pages, you tap the screen to bring on the next message. The app offers a limited number of free stories but charges a subscription fee (starting at $2.99 per week) for unlimited access.
Chordia suggested that this presents a couple of advantages over a standard book or e-book. For one thing, readers aren’t faced with “this block of text that just doesn’t have that natural feel on your phone that a casual game does.” It could also make it easier for readers to consume the story in small bites, say when they’re waiting in line or riding the subway.
Thank you, Hooked, for rescuing readers everywhere from an imposing and ominous block of text. What would we do without you?