QUICK TAKE: The age of e-singles

(First published in Fortune India, October 2013 issue; updated and media added for this blog)

After disrupting traditional publishing, the e-book segment itself looks set for disruption with the emergence of e-singles — bite-sized reads that cost a fraction of longer titles. These cover genres from poetry and short stories to plays and essays, by established and new authors, and have been available on Kindle for a while now.

In India, Penguin launched the format in June, with 47 e-singles priced at Rs 25 each, which are available on Flipkart and Google Books. Now, the Indian arm of News Corp subsidiary Harper Collins has launched a Kindle-ready digital imprint called Harper21 that commemorates 21 years of the company in India, bringing the price down to Rs 21 a pop. (Some of the titles are now on sale on Kindle at Rs 16.)

Mumbai-based author Annie Zaidi, whose short story is on Harper21, says e-singles are “especially useful if people don’t trust new or upcoming writers, or if a writer is trying to break out of her/his usual genre”. After recording a 250% increase in global e-book sales last year, Harper Collins will hope this format takes off.

Meanwhile, Penguin Random House is top of the pile in the e-book business in the first quarter of 2014, followed by Harper Collins.

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