Amazon is considered the pioneer of the short-format digital book. It launched Kindle Singles in January 2011. In September this year, it said it had sold 3.5 million Kindle Singles so far. Others have followed suit. Apple calls the format Quick Reads and Barnes & Noble calls them Nook Snaps.
The Times is partnering with one of the early innovators in the space, a San Francisco startup called Byliner Inc., which has published nearly 50 short-form titles in its 16-month existence.
Among its hits are "Lifeboat No. 8," a story about the sinking of the Titanic by Elizabeth Kaye and Jon Krakauer's "Three Cups of Deceit." Kaye's book made its way to the top of the New York Times e-book bestseller list.
Two of Byliner's cofounders, John Tayman and Mark Bryant, both worked previously as editors at The New York Times Sports Magazine, making the pair an easy pick as the newspaper's inaugural partners.Byliner has published the work of Times reporters before, including Jonathan Mahler, a New York Times Magazine writer who wrote "Death Comes to Happy Valley" about Joe Paterno and the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State. "We're a company that values great writing and great writers, as does the Times," said Tayman. "It's a perfect combination for us both." In addition to new original work, the Times is mining its archives to create curated selections of articles assembled into mini e-book narratives about a topic or event, a product it's calling TimesFiles. For that offering, it is partnering with Vook, another startup, based in New York, to publish 25 titles on Monday such as "The Life and Writing of Nora Ephron" and "George Steinbrenner and the Yankees." Vook's vice president of business development, Matthew Cavnar, calls the launch "the first powerful entry into this marketplace" by a newspaper company so far.