A website launched on Tuesday will post a short story every weekday to any Web-enabled cellphone for free in what some see as an underground challenge to dominant digital reading devices such as Amazon's Kindle.
Amazon.com and Sony Corp have bet heavily on creating book-sized devices designed exclusively to read, in contrast to smaller gadgets such as Apple Inc's iPhone, which can serve as a reader among other functions.
Created by Dan Sinker, who teaches journalism at Columbia College Chicago, CellStories.net is not limited to any particular gadget and is designed to be as simple as possible to work on any handheld mobile device with Web access.
Anyone that thinks something like the Sony Reader or the Kindle is a device that's going to be around in even three years is delusional, Sinker told Reuters. We're past the point where people say 'I want one device to do one thing.'
CellStories isn't the thing that replaces (the Kindle) but ... the question of how do we read on computing devices was answered when phones like the iPhone came out, he said.
In an article on its website headlined Lookout Kindle, Here Comes CellStories.net, industry magazine Publishers Weekly said the website was more a digital reading experiment than a business venture.
The content will include short stories, personal essays, narrative journalism and creative nonfiction, with most pieces around 1,500 to 2,000 words, or a 10- to 15-minute read.
Among authors who have pledged to contribute to what promises to be an outlet for literary writing is 2008 Story Prize finalist Joe Meno. Authors will not be paid as the site is not yet designed to make money, Sinker said.
It is an experiment, with the possibility of making some modest money in the future, he said. One of the things that's awesome about now is experiments don't cost very much money.
The former editor of a low-budget independent magazine called Punk Planet, Sinker said mobile technology offered the same potential for independent literary publishing at a fraction of the cost of printing on paper.
The CellStories website is hosted on a server with a monthly fee of $55, and he raised $815 in funding on the Web.
The attraction for writers, he said, was that the site puts their work before new readers who may then seek out and buy their published work. Sinker has agreements with several small independent publishers keen to have their authors featured.
A notice on the site invites submissions, saying: For now, nobody's making money -- instead we're driven by the desire to bring great writing to great readers.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Mohammad Zargham)