The literary website the Millions is getting into the e-book business: Starting Tuesday, it will publish e-books that are available on Amazon.com, in Apple's iBookstore and at Barnes & Noble. While its website is about books, authors and publishing, its e-books will move into other realms.
The Millions' debut is "Epic Fail: Bad Art, Viral Fame and the History of the Worst Thing Ever" by Mark O'Connell. It's a long essay that begins with the botched Jesus fresco repair that looked like a monkey, moves to Susan Sontag's "On Camp" and goes on from there.
We discussed the Millions' e-book project by email with the site's founder and editor, C. Max Magee.
When did you come up with the Millions e-book idea? Was there a moment of inspiration?
It's something we've been thinking about for at least a couple of years. I don't think there was a moment of inspiration, but after seeing different websites start putting out e-books and especially after the shorter "single" format emerged, it clicked with us that this was something we should try to do.
The Millions was an early entrant – 2003! – in the online discussion of books. Do you see any parallels between those early days of book blogging and e-books now?
In some ways, there are parallels. Back in 2003, there was a lot of excitement around blogging, and completely unknown voices were emerging and making names for themselves, purely on the basis of their talent and ability to build an audience. E-books have made it similarly easy for new writers to get their books out to the world -- an exciting idea with some high-profile success stories -- but everything seems to be moving much faster this time. In the early days of blogging, there was this moment, before the big brands and media companies jumped on board, where it was about as close as you can get to a democratized marketplace. With e-books, the big publishers have been involved from day one, so there hasn't been this moment for the little guys to have the spotlight to themselves.
You already know how to make a website. But what about making an e-book? How did you figure that out?
On the technical side, we had the opportunity to work with Byliner. So we were able to do what we do best -- focus on the editorial side of things -- while Byliner helped us with the technical work.
What makes a good e-book from the Millions?
We've had the luck to work with many great writers over the years, and with this project, we're looking to spend more time and offer pieces with more depth and polish. We'll look to take on a variety of unusual and eclectic topics that might not get the same treatment elsewhere.
How long are they?
Around 15,000 words. Longer than almost all magazine articles but well short of the typical book.
How much do they cost?
Our first title will go for just $1.99. We'll see what happens with future titles.
Are you recruiting authors from contributors to the Millions? Are you accepting pitches?
We are working with contributors to the Millions, as well as those who haven't written for us before. We are accepting pitches.
In your first e-book, Mark O'Connell writes about Epic Fails, and what they mean to our culture. Did that grow out of something he'd written for the Millions?
No. About a year ago, we asked Mark for his best, new idea, and this was it. With this project, we're looking to put out books that are self-contained and not riffs on anything we've done before.
Can you tell us what's coming up?
Our next title is completely different. It's a work of science journalism that looks into a mystery that puzzled NASA and physicists worldwide for many years.