This suggestion from The Washington Post (via The Passive Voice) that novels might be published in installments does seem to me to make sense. We do so many things merely because that’s what we have always done, that outside-the-box thinking often seems more likely to get you fired than promoted. Publishing a book in serial form, chapter by chapter, just as Dickens did, is now dead easy because of the 180º turn in the basic economic foundations of publishing brought about by the digital revolution. You don’t have to print thousands of copies of the whole book and attempt to flood the market so that in order to keep their heads above water all readers will rush to buy a copy. You can easily bring it out chapter by chapter (doing it, as people have, 140 characters at a time on Twitter, may be going too far) and this would seem to fit perfectly with the burgeoning book club, book group movement. There’s nothing to stop you printing it after the final chapter is done, but importantly there’s nothing forcing you to do so.

Now maybe a chapter a month is too slow for some — isn’t pent up demand, nevertheless demand? If you get people bitching to their friends that they can’t bear waiting for the next installment of Dombey and Son, isn’t that likely to boost sales?

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