A new startup called Hooked offers 1,000-word books intended to be read in five minutes. Young-adult readers with iPhones or Apple Watches are the big targets. The related iTunes link is here.

Four-fifths of YA novels are read digitally, according to Hooked’s founders.

Hooked’s books will consist just of dialog, and a CNN report offers a sample—not exactly Edith Wharton, but something that teenagers might go for:

“Umm…why do u have Claires phone?”

“Well if u must know i sat down on this park bench to read”

“And sat right on someone’s phone. Claire’s I’m guessing”

“What r u reading?”

According to CNN, “messages show up on the screen when readers click ‘Next.’”

Hooked cofounder Prerna Gupta tells CNN: “Epistolary literature is nothing new. Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ is one of my favorite books and the story is told entirely through letters.”

“We don’t think fiction’s dying,” TechCrunch quotes Gupta, but publishers could refine “the way it’s currently presented and produced.”

You’ll get some free stories with the app, but for others, you’ll pay a weekly subscription fee of $2.99 for unlimited access. The story count is now up to 200.

The pros of this approach? Hooked’s cofounders note that you won’t face overwhelming blocks of text, and that makes sense, given the reliance on dialog. Plus, the books would be logical shorties for grocery-store lines or bus rides.

I’m tempted to put in a word for long books, but I also want to keep an open mind here. Hooked books could be gateways to longer ones.

Here’s one other question. Sites such as WattPad offer short fiction and other kinds for free, and some of it is good enough for publishers to sign up the writers. Will Hooked be able to compete with free? Too early to say. Perhaps with enough promo and smart curation, it can. The app interface looks highly polished and appropriate.

Some wise words from Hooked cofounder Parag Chordia, Prerna Gupta’s husband, also make me think the company could be on the right track: “Every line has to either advance the story or advance the relationships. Every message is a cliffhanger.” Exactly, at least in fiction of this kind!

Think you can offer the right kind of cliff hanging? I have no idea what the company’s current submission policy is, but a contact page for Telepathic, Inc., the Gupta-Chordia company behind this “Twitter for short fiction,” is here.

Questions: When will the app come out in an Android version? I’ll also be curious if Hooked moves into other age groups. That could be tricky, given the tight connection here between content and format. Would you yourself read a Hooked book, and if so, under what circumstances? Why or why not?

And a reminder: “Cell phone novels” written in IM vernacular have been part of the Japanese e-book scene for years.


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