MobileActive's Pick of the Week: CellStories - Short Stories on Your Mobile

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Nov 18, 2009

Instead of cracking open a book, try sitting back with a short story on your phone. CellStories, which launched in September, offers a new short (1500-2500 words) story every weekday to readers on mobile phones. The website only shows its daily short stories to visitors coming to the site on mobile phones – those on a desktop see a welcome page and are encouraged to come back on a web-enabled mobile.

The site is the creation of Daniel Sinker, the former editor of Punk Planet magazine. Sinker wanted to get into the digital media world after Punk Planet ended; he had built the now-defunct Punk Planet website, but felt he had much more to learn. He became a Knight Fellow at Stanford University and decided to use his year there to learn more in-depth programming for digital media. He originally planned to build out a back end for independent publishing on the web, but that changed quickly; as Sinker says, “Pretty soon into the fellowship, for a multitude of reasons, I became interested in mobile technology and some of the possibilities in there, specifically in this idea that these devices are such wonderful ways to actually read.”

After a year and a half of off-and-on work, CellStories went live in September of 2009. Sinker originally envisioned CellStories as a place for publishing narrative journalism, but that idea greatly expanded as the editorial side of the project began to come together. The site now posts a wide variety of genres, from fiction to personal narratives.

The site is an experiment in how people experience reading – and if they can be swayed to see mobile phones as a viable source for longer, more literary reading. Says Sinker,

“I started thinking about ‘What do we lose when we move to publishing on a desktop?’ and one of those things is the ability to read at length and read in-depth because it’s really uncomfortable with a desktop sitting at a desk, or balancing a laptop precariously. So we see the form of writing adapting for uncomfortable reading – so it’s shorter, and it’s lists, and it’s crappy. And I really felt that with mobile technology, we could actually move back in the other direction. That we could create more interesting things to read because it was a more comfortable reading environment. It’s essentially the reading environment of a paperback book or a novel – you can be comfortable, you can sit where you want, you can take it with you on the train.”

CellStories is run entirely by Sinker, so although the site has not been monetized it’s sustainable – Sinker raised enough funds on KickStarter (a crowd-source funding site for creative projects) to cover the server hosting fees for the next year and a half and he has no other expenses as the stories are freely donated. He used his contacts from his publishing days to gather together writers and partners in order to amass content. Between publishers who send him stories and a year-long partnership with 2nd Story, a Chicago performance group that posts stories every Tuesday, Sinker has already blocked out the next two months worth of stories.

The site averages about 300-400 individual readers per day; Sinker said he was surprised by how international his readership is, with many readers coming from Australia, Canada, Northern Europe, and a few from South Africa.

"Mobile technology is so much further along in the adoption rate other places than it is here. So on any given day, there are actually more readers in Melbourne and Sydney than there are in San Francisco and L.A., which is very cool to me.”

For readers, it’s an experiment as well – will mobile phones offer an alternative to the desktop, Kindle, or a physical book? That’s yet to be seen, but CellStories does offer one great benefit besides portability: variety. Each day there is a new story from a new author, in a different genre than the previous. One day’s story about a young man struggling to accept pending fatherhood could be followed by a comedic piece on a beauty pageant among the world’s dictators. For Sinker, it’s all about providing a wide variety of literature in a new medium; as he puts it, “People are realizing this is great technology for reading.”

MobileActive's Pick of the Week: CellStories - Short Stories on Your Mobile data sheet 3842 Views
Countries: United States