That may be a little harsh (though it’s on my favorite Elvis Costello record), but CNN reports on the cellphone novel phenomenon that has swept Japan, a phenomenon that might not translate to the U.S. The story reports:
As the name suggests, cell phone novels are written entirely on handsets and posted on sites like Maho no i-rando (Magic Island), the first and largest mobile novel portal in Japan. The site has a million titles, 3.5 billion monthly visitors and six million registered users, according to the company. Mobile readers instantly see new chapters as they are added, often adding comments about the direction they think a novel should take.
The diary-like stories are written and read mostly by young women in their teens and 20’s. Many authors use pen names and claim their stories are at least partially autobiographical. The novels often center on themes that are rarely discussed aloud in Japanese society — drugs, sex, pregnancy, abortion, rape and disease.
Japan’s cell-phone novel phenomenon probably will not be making its way over to the U.S. Consider this the cell-phone literature equivalent of soccer – it may just not translate to American viewers. It very well may gain a following in the U.S. but it’s safe to assume that it will not reach the level of a site like Magic Island with 3.5 billion monthly visitors. The site Text Novel is one site looking to have the craze come to the U.S., still in beta.
That could be a wrong prognostication, or it could already be here and it’s called Twitter. Though the likelihood of a publisher snatching up someone’s Twitter scribblings, no matter how narrative, publishing them in a book, and then having that book sell millions of copies is…unlikely. In some sense, blogging takes the place of a serial novel, and blogs can be accessed on phones as well, so there is built-in competition. But the greatest competition may be cultural preference. The main readers of cell phone novels in Japan are teenagers, and American teenagers have a lot of competition for their time.
Novels on Cellphones
This is totally separate issue from people turning their cellphones into e-readers, which is one of the major things that is leading to widespread use of ebooks. Recently, there was news that eReader titles are going to be accessible by Blackberries. EReader also announced the development of a Linux version of eReader for notebook users and a T-Mobile Android version as well, which will increase e-books.
Still, ebooks are currently frustratingly complicated – for both readers and writers – with the number of different platforms and different devices. These issues will eventually be ironed out and the current state of ebooks is one of growing pains. A phenomenon like serial cell-phone novels would certainly do a lot to raise the profile of e-reading (and perhaps limit it in the eyes of some critics) but the most likely scenario is that full-length ebooks become widely used on cellphones.