Harlequin and other publishers have published serial novels, Simon & Schuster and indie startups have launched serial reading apps, and now we have the media asking ridiculous questions like “will serial fiction turn binge-watchers into binge-readers”.
NPR posted a story yesterday with the hook that serialized fiction like the following would lead to more binge reading:
This year, FSG is trying something similar, publishingThe Tale of Shikanoko in four parts over six months. Publishing this way feels very much like delivering a season of programming, says McDonald.
Julian Yap and Molly Barton are taking it a step further — they’ve just launched a company called Serial Box which aims to be “HBO for readers.” Serial Box releases “episodes” (not “books”) over a 10 to 16 week season. Each season is written by a team of writers.
“We’re not just chopping up novels and sending out chapters,” says Barton.
The process is directly modeled on writing for a TV series. “We begin with the equivalent of a showrunner and three or four supporting writers,” Barton explains. Together, they break down the plot, talk through the characters, and map out current and future seasons.
Serial Box launched officially with four serials and a fifth on the way. Subscribers can buy one serial at a time in text or audio form, or they can buy a season pass. Each episode takes about 40 minutes to read, the same time as it takes to watch an average TV drama. Julian Yap says people do still love to read, but they don’t have time a lot of time.
I don’t know what this obsession is some people have with binge reading, but generally serial fiction is not going to encourage the behavior. And frankly, I wonder why anyone would think to connect the two.
Yes, we binge watch tv series, but what a lot of people seem to be missing is that one can’t binge watch a show until one has a backlog – a box set, for example, or a queue of saved episodes in a DVR.
You cannot binge read what you don’t have at hand, and serial fiction copies the idea of television’s delayed broadcast of a show’s episodes, rather than the release of a season’s worth of episodes as a box set.
You can’t binge read a work of serial fiction until after you have all (or most) of the parts – after the serial has ended, and the story is no longer serial fiction.
Once you have all the parts of a serial story, you basically have a novel (or book series, if the serial work is long enough), and readers have been binge reading novels and book series for years and years.
Speaking from personal experience, I binge read the Narnia series in the fourth grade, and a few years back I read the Harry Potter series over a Thanksgiving Day weekend.
Binge reading is not a new phenomenon, especially in the romance genre, where readers can finish a couple romance titles in a day.
It’s certainly not a new phenomenon, and no, serial fiction will not lead to a new rise in binge reading.
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