March 11, 2014

New book app recreates the feeling of serialized novels



The days of serialized prose fiction are largely a thing of the past, in our age of binge-viewing and -reading. Comic books still offer the thrill of a cliffhanger every month or so, but it’s hard to think of any novels that are released in bits and pieces, certainly in traditional print format.

A new app called Rooster is bringing the format back, though, for the digital age, Ron Charles reports for the Washington Post. For $4.99 a month, users can get a new bite-sized passage from two different books each day: one classic, one contemporary, paired together “to provoke interesting reflection.” Subscribers can adjust the settings to determine how often they’ll receive updates—in case getting new selections every day will just lead to them piling up—and what time of day they want to get them.

Rooster is available for the iPhone, though as of yet, doesn’t look like it’s compatible with any tablets, which tend to be better and more comfortable for reading. Still, Charles says that “the Rooster app is elegantly designed to make reading easy on the little iPhone screen. Text size, font style and background color are all adjustable. And if you can’t wait for the next day’s installment, click a button to have it delivered immediately.”

Of the company’s goals, editorial director Yael Goldstein Love says, “We like offering these small masterpieces by writers known for their much larger masterpieces. It gives people who might have been intimidated by Moby Dick and Anna Karenina a chance to read Melville or Tolstoy in just a matter of days. Maybe they’ll serve as literary gateway drugs.” She also explains the name for the app: “We city kids, perhaps delusionally, associate roosters with wholesome daily routine and a sense of emerging into the day refreshed and energized. That’s what we think a daily dose of good fiction can do for people, too.”

The app launches today in the iTunes store. The first two books offered are Billy Budd by Herman Melville, and I Was Here by Rachel Kadish, a thriller that she wrote specifically for Rooster. Going forward, the contemporary books being offered will include both previously published books and originals, with the goal of encouraging more writers to try their hand at serialized fiction.


Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.