Is reading fiction slowly dying?
If young adult fiction like The Hunger Games and The Divergent Series are any indicator, kids these days still dig fiction (I’m 33, which means I’m allowed to use the phrase “Kids these days”). But there’s no denying that the digital revolution has had a major impact on how young adults spend their time and absorb their content.
Back in my day (another phrase I’m allowed to use), we spent our time watching “Double Dare” and chatting on AOL Instant Messenger. Facebook wasn’t a thing. Twitter was something birds did. Text messaging existed in Mission Impossible. We read books like Encyclopaedia Brown and Goosebumps.
The youth of 2015 are constantly assaulted by short bursts of information. Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, Facebook, and text messaging require an attention span that can quickly shift gears. Can fiction, which inherently requires a longer attention span, survive the harsh climate of the digital revolution?
Startup Telepathic, makers of the app Hooked, believe it can…as long as the reading doesn’t really feel like, well, actual reading.
The app delivers short pieces of fiction in forms that are suitable for the hyper-digital Snapchat generation. Unlike e-books, which still retain the format of paper books, Hooked presents stories in ways that feel natural on smartphones; the stories are primarily written as text message dialog, and the story is advanced by tapping the screen.
“Well if u must know i sat down on this park bench to read”
“And sat right on someone’s phone. Claire’s I’m guessing”
“What r u reading?”
I admit that, as a writer, that passage makes me want to gouge my eyes out. In terms of writing quality, it absolutely sucks. But most of today’s youth don’t place a premium on writing quality (See Twilight and every other vampire love story). More than ever, they place a greater premium on story and experience. Parag Chordia and Prerna Gupta, the makers of Hooked, realize this.
We saw that there was lots of scope for innovation. Books on phones haven’t kept up with the lives and behavior of modern readers.
Each story is approximately 1,000 words long and takes about 5 minutes to read. There are currently over 200 stories with more being added each day. Users get one free story per day, a week of unlimited stories for $2.99, a month for $7.99, and a year for $39.99.
Apparently investors think Hooked has real promise, giving Telepathic $1.9 million in its first round of funding.
It will be fascinating to see if Hooked actually succeeds. The success or failure of the app will say volumes about the future of reading and the future of storytelling.
Stephen Altrogge is a freelance writer based in Tallahassee, Florida. He writes about tech, marketing, faith, and lots of other things. He’s married to Jen and has three young girls. Every day he consumes more coffee than the entire population of Colombia. He knows more about Star Wars than any respectable man should, and he runs more than any sane man would. He once attempted to eat a 2 pound hamburger in under an hour. He failed.
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