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Amazon has new stories to tell
Internet retailer to sell short stories on its site for 49 cents; move bolsters digital strategy.
August 22, 2005: 9:17 AM EDT
By Shaheen Pasha, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Amazon.com wants your short stories.

In another move aimed at bolstering its digital content strategy, Amazon.com launched a new program called Amazon Shorts. Authors can sell previously unpublished short stories, ranging from 2,000 to 10,000 words in digital form and consumers can read the digital literature for 49 cents a story.

Amazon touts the move as a win-win for authors and readers. Customers can sample new writers without investing time and money in a long-form novel, and writers can access a marketing tool that promotes their work and helps maintains visibility between projects.

The program boasts 59 authors so far, including household names such as Danielle Steele and Robin Cooke. But its not just for fiction aficionados. Readers can buy biographies and memoir shorts from authors such as Richard Rhodes and Terry Brooks as well as other select non-fiction and essays.

But it's not an open to every writer with a pen and a dream. Interested authors, agents, publishers or editors have to contact the company, which will decide whether to include a writer into the program. Once in, authors retain the rights to the material, although stories will be exclusive to the site for at least six months.

Marketing short stories in a digital fashion is a question of economics, really. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Amazon.com's vice president of digital media, Steve Kessel, said digital distribution is less expensive and makes it easier to promote short-form literature -- an area that traditionally has less of a following than full length novels.

Amazon has been actively promoting digital content on its website in recent months. The company announced Monday that it will offer an online photo service through Shutterfly.

It's already offered original short films and broadcast a live concert with Norah Jones and Bob Dylan to consumers via its website. And Amazon dipped its toe into the e-book market five years ago when it offered consumers free copies of horror writer Stephen King's e-book Riding The Bullet.

But selling short stories online is still new territory for the Internet retailer, and it's yet to be determined whether the market will embrace the new technology.

But David Steinberger, chief executive of Perseus Books LLC, told the Journal that Amazon's dedicated audience, as well as the company's ability to generate add-on sales, may help authors get their work out to the public at a low cost. And he added that for Amazon, the move highlights a trend in which the line between retailing and publishing will continue to blur.

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