I once asked Ian Rankin (question at a literary event) if he would ever consider publishing on the internet, even mobile phones. He thought it a 'daft and disgusting' idea. But it may not be as daft as he thinks. Book sales have been falling in Japan but ‘keitai bukai’, mobile phone novels are doing a roaring trade. There's also a healthy Manga comic on mobiles market. It would seem that this is creating an entirely new literary form.
Written in short three minute episodes, to be read between tube stops, they are written to hook the reader into downloading the next episode. This takes skills as it depends on creating plotlines that create up to a hundred cliffhanging moments, as some have as many as 100 episodes. It's actually evolving into a new form of literary writing.
E-books have failed as the devices were too big and expensive. Out of 127 million people there are 100 million with mobiles, and as the screens have got bigger, with better resolution, text has become readable. Downloads are superfast and with flat rates, you can access as many as you wish, once you’ve paid a subscription fee of around £2 per month.
Readers mainly young women
Four of the top selling paper books in Japan started as keitai bunkai. The readers are mainly young women with romance (peppered with erotica) the flavour of the month. They seem to like the idea that there’s no bookcover and that they can read in secret. Some admit they have never read a book before.
This is interesting. The book is just as much a technical device as any other medium. With its shape, cover, content page, preface, chapters, paragraphs and index. Books on mobiles are just another example of the rising tide of digital content. I see a bright future for mobile access of text, especially on iPhones-like mobiles. Check out the way it automatically switches your screen when you tip it on it side from portrait to landscape.
These japanese mobile novels could be a model for the 'little and often' spaced practice learning that the psychology of learning tells us works so efficiently.