Serial Novels Changing the Role of the Writer

Scott Rettberg’s Kind of Blue provided a different take on what I had conventionally thought of as the serial novel.  The serial novel conjures up images of 19th century literature as being written and distributed in serial form and being compiled into long books that we currently read and wonder why they are so long.  Rettberg’s novel though is in the 21st century and is distributed through the form of e-mail, providing the reader with an ongoing experience of mystery and excitement for the next installment.  This modern take on an old phenomenon makes me wonder what it is that separates these two pieces of work and if it is tied to the form in which the literature is being written and distributed or if there is no difference between then and now.

The cost and time needed to print and produce print literature in a serial form is different than that of sending out an e-mail for free.  While, Rettberg isn’t getting paid for each installment that he writes it is clear that this is not about making a profit from these serial novels.  In the digital format the serial novel does more for the reader than it does for the writer, the reader is given full accessibility, convenience as well as intrigue without much work other than opening an e-mail. This changes the nature of the serial novel because the experience of print was focused around the consumption and act of procuring the next installment of the author’s book, while Kind of Blue is more about the reader being able to instantaneously experience the work that is being written.  If literature in the digital age works place the reader as the primary subject, then what happens to the writer?  Are they more appreciated in the world of print?

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