In the age of push notifications, there is no such thing as uninterrupted reading time, even for the staunchest bibliophile. Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, email; there is always a reason to pick up your phone rather than a book. A new app, Crave, aims to turn these constant distractions into an integral part of the reading experience.
Crave is the creation of writer and entrepreneur Ziv Namoth’s digital media start-up, Paragraph. Described as “part book, part movie, part instant messenger,” it delivers daily 1,000 word instalments of a story to its users. These chapters are interspersed with images, GIFs, and short videos, all designed to enhance the story — readers might even receive a text message from the hero.
“We wanted to help long-form storytelling compete with the onslaught of new content available now,” explains the app’s website. “We decided to create an experience that fits into the way people consume information today — in short bursts of attention — and with audio, video and vivid imagery.”
Crave is currently targeting readers in the romance genre, who generally speaking are pretty voracious, consuming twice as much media per month than other readers. How does Crave intend to get them to slow down to just 1,000 words a day? By creating a bond between the reader and the smouldering romantic hero, through video messages and emails, putting the reader in the narrator’s shoes and making the story feel like it is unfolding in real time.
While romance readers burn through stories at a rapid rate, Crave’s low-pressure approach to reading might appeal to less demanding consumers. In fact, incorporating short bursts of story into the attention economy might actually be the key to helping more people read for pleasure.
Earlier this month, Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes announced he will be writing and publishing a new serial novel in weekly increments, Dickens-style, through a special app. While the content itself sounds like typical Fellowes fare (an exploration of the class system in wartime Britain), he says he is excited by the possibilities of “appointment reading.”
There are some who argue that our tech-induced appetite for fast, small nuggets of content has killed the art of long-form writing, but Crave and other offerings like it are proof that far from being dead, the novel (and readers’ behaviour) can evolve, and embrace new modes of storytelling.