Publishers Now Want You to 'Binge Read'

Look what Netflix hath wrought: Publishers are beginning to talk about releasing sequels faster, so they can get some of that sweet, sweet binge-watching action.

This is the contention of the New York Times, using the case of Jeff VanderMeer and his new scifi trilogy as an example. "Annihilation," the first installment, dropped last week; the sequels will follow in May and September. See, publishers are catching on to the fact that our attention spans are now measured in seconds, not decades:

The practice of spacing an author's books at least one year apart is gradually being discarded as publishers appeal to the same "must-know-now" impulse that drives binge viewing of shows like "House of Cards" and "Breaking Bad."

"Consumers want to be able to binge-read or binge-watch," Christine Ball, the associate publisher of Dutton, said in an interview. "We wanted to give the consumers what they wanted in this case."

For years publishers have been pushing backlist books in digital form, often offering them for dirt-cheap on Amazon, as a way of pumping up enthusiasm for each new release in a series. But this flips the script, replacing opportunistic marketing with a planned rollout. You can thank the 50 Shades trilogy for giving publishers the push they needed.

It's not without risks, of course: There's always the risk the series won't pan out, in which case it's going to be harder to cut your losses.

But for readers? It's hard to see the downside. As an epic fantasy fan from way back, I'm in favor of literally anything that'll solve long-running frustrations like poorly planned plots that run off the rails and years-long waits for George R.R. Martin to get off his ass and finish that next goddamn book. (Do not even get me started about Brandon Sanderson having to finish the Wheel of Time series.)

The irony is that some publishers are now taking their queues from the TV world, when reading was the original form of solitary narrative binging. And so the world turns!

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