atavistCapital New York has a story on The Atavist, an iPad long-form journalism magazine put together by freelance journalist Evan Ratliff, The New Yorker editor Nicholas Thompson, and developer Jefferson Rabb. The idea is to sell in-depth stories that are longer than most magazine articles but shorter than books.

This fits in neatly with Kindle’s just-opened “Singles” store, which is why the first two Atavist stories can be purchased there for $2.99 each. But the Atavist writers are planning to bring out their own customized Atavist iPad and iPhone reader apps, which will presumably be used to buy articles through in-app purchases.

The idea of reading longer-form journalism on portable devices isn’t new, of course. Mark Armstrong founded Longreads on that principal, which bundles long-form free content from the web for reading via Instapaper and other portable-device-friendly formats.

“The last 15 years of online content has really only been created for workplace engagement—Monday through Friday, 5-min. increments, while the boss isn’t looking,” according to Armstrong. “Thanks to these new devices and apps, content can capture a reader’s attention on the couch, on a commute, or on an airplane. There’s a deep level of engagement that never existed before. Longreads helps readers find and share great stories, and we also help publishers and writers reach the readers who support and love this kind of work.”

And Instapaper has its own free long-form aggregator, the aptly-named “”. (I previously covered both Longreads and Give Me Something here.)

But the question of whether people would be willing to pay for original long-form content has not yet been answered. Out of the $2.99 for the stories that are available so far, 30% goes to Amazon (and, likewise, 30% will go to Apple if future stories are sold through the app’s in-app purchase facility), about 50% goes to the writer, and the rest goes to The Atavist‘s editorial team.

Compared to the cost of magazines, $2.99 seems a bit high for an individual article. After all, if you subscribe to a print magazine, you can get it for just pennies an issue. On the other hand, it seems a fairly decent price compared to longer, more expensive e-books. And if you can’t get that particular content from any other source, the value goes up.


The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail