Kindle Vella is Great for Anyone Who Reads on Mobile

Short can be sweet

Key Takeaways

  • I tried Amazon’s new Kindle Vella service, which offers subscriptions to serialized books and came away impressed.
  • I thought that having to subscribe to chapters would be annoying, but it turns out to be a great way to read on mobile devices. 
  • The current selection on the Vella store is thin and you have to buy packs of virtual tokens instead of paying outright for books.
Someone reading on a Kindle while having coffee at a table.

felipepelaquim / Unsplash

As someone who loves long writing, I was skeptical of Amazon’s new serialized e-book format called Kindle Vella, but a few days with the service has made me a fan of the text snippets. 

Kindle Vella stories are published one short episode at a time, ranging from 600 to 5,000 words. To hook you on the story, Amazon gives you the first three episodes of every story for free. However, the Vella service still has some growing pains. 

"Mobile reading is perfect for serialized books. It’s hard to concentrate on long stretches of text when you are using a small screen."

Short Stuff

I started by navigating to the Amazon website and browsing the selection of available books. This was where I ran into my first snag. The Vella service was launched this month, and there weren’t many choices available. 

The Vella store offered lots of romance books and some amateurish-seeming science fiction. Amazon says Kindle Vella stories include new work from bestselling authors, such as Audrey Carlan’s romance “The Marriage Auction,” Hugh Howey’s memoir “Death and Life,” and C. G. Cooper’s thriller “Daring Hope.”

There are also debut works like Bard Constantine’s young adult fantasy “The Pale Lord,” Ryan King’s science fiction story “Earth’s Exiles,” and Callie Chase’s dystopian “Bug.”

Nothing grabbed my attention until I found “A Dog’s Life” by the author John Sibley. The narrative nonfiction structure of this book made it an easy read as a serial. 

As much as I enjoyed Sibley’s work, I wish there were some better-known nonfiction authors available on the Vella store. The service seems like a natural fit for magazine writers and I’d be happy to buy expanded versions of stories I read in publications like The New Yorker or Harper’s Bazaar

I was immediately impressed with the attractive presentation of the book. It’s not much different visually from regular Kindle books, but Amazon has added some new features that make browsing for books more fun. 

One important point to keep in mind is that Amazon doesn’t currently offer an Android app for its Vella service. I used the iOS Kindle app and it worked perfectly well. I also tried reading Vella chapters through a Chrome browser on a Google Pixel and it was a smooth experience. 

"The service seems like a natural fit for magazine writers and I’d be happy to buy expanded versions of stories I read in publications like The New Yorker or Harper’s Bazaar."

The clean, bright interface of the Vella store is a standout.  It’s easy to search for books you like. You can use tags to browse for specific topics and genres to find stories.

I also appreciated having the option to use the "following" feature. Once I subscribed to a Kindle Vella story, I was notified every time a new episode was released.

There’s also an easy way to signal whether you like a book or not. You can leave a Thumbs Up for every episode you enjoy.

Buying books isn’t quite as simple as using Amazon's One-Click purchase. If you enjoy the free sample chapters, you can buy more using a system of tokens that can be purchased in bundles. This makes it easy to spend more than you intended. I’m not sure why Amazon didn’t include the option to just pay for each book you want to buy. 

Books as Video Games?

The whole Vella experience seems designed to appeal to people with short attention spans, which frankly is all of us at this point. Amazon has managed to gamify the reading experience. Apparently, it’s not enough to enjoy literature for its own sake anymore. 

Screenshots from Kindle Vella

Amazon

There’s the whole issue of liking stories, which is fun as a reader, but makes me queasy as a writer. Literature is a personal experience and artistic experience that can be devalued with a simple thumbs-up. 

Once a week, users who have purchased virtual tokens can favorite the story they enjoyed most. Amazon says it will feature stories with the most Faves in the Kindle Vella store to help other readers discover popular stories.

Mobile reading is perfect for serialized books. It’s hard to concentrate on long stretches of text when you are using a small screen. I still prefer using my Kindle Oasis as a dedicated reader for books, but the Vella makes it easy to read in bite-sized chunks. I’m looking forward to seeing how Amazon expands this service.

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