Two weeks ago, I wrote a post expressing my enthusiasm for Julian Fellowes’s decision to launch his upcoming novel BELGRAVIA as an electronically-enhanced weekly web serial that will include links to all kinds of cool supplementary material in each installment.
Now it looks like a new app called Crave is poised to outdo Fellowes. Dedicated to romance novels, it is targeted at the young Smartphone user who only has a few minutes to read between texting friends and checking Instagram and Twitter accounts. A typical Crave romance novel will be available each day in bite-sized 1000-word chapters, and as the reader scrolls down, the text will be periodically interrupted with brief film clips and gifs (often of a hunky actor playing the male lead), text messages between the characters, even notifications from the characters directly to the reader. As this Huffington Post article explains, “the folks behind Crave think this format just might save the novel.”
Yikes! I didn’t know the novel needed saving so badly that it might only survive in such an interactive slice-and-dice form. As exciting as it is to see the reading experience assuming different dimensions in the digital age, I have to wonder whether this dumbs the whole thing down a bit as it caters to ever-shortening attention spans. There’s a lot to be said for the immersive experience of focusing on a book for long stretches of time while we put everything else on hold. But perhaps for many people that is becoming a luxury, or—worse—a chore, one that demands intermittent distraction.
Or maybe Crave and whatever other apps it spawns will be just another choice for readers, not the one that necessarily becomes the norm. It will certainly create a new genre and a new platform. And some novels developed with Crave in mind may become an entirely valid and valuable entertainment choice. I’d love to hear other thoughts on this. Let us know what you think, and whether you’ll give this kind of reading a try.