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Literary journalism in new forms

May 13th, 2011 by Chris Strauber

The LA Times has a great discussion of several new publishers who are aiming to fill the space between books and substantial magazine articles, and also to create a free-standing market for long-form journalism. The first, Byliner, has attracted some attention recently with the publication of Jon Krakauer’s “Three Cups of Deceit”, which analyzes Greg Mortensen’s “Three Cups of Tea” and sparked a discussion of Mortensen’s financial management and general veracity. The Times compares the form to classic literary journalism like Norman Mailer’s history of the 1968 Democratic convention or Joan Didion’s essays on 1960’s culture.

“Three Cups of Deceit” (available through Amazon) is an intriguing in-between length, about eighty pages. Krakauer has enough space to develop his theme, but it’s a relatively simple story that doesn’t fit conventional publishing requirements–it’s too long even for something like the New Yorker, but too short to make a profitable book…and padding the length to make it book size would decrease the impact. It was well worth the $3 I spent. When Kindle Singles launched earlier this year, this was the sort of thing Amazon had in mind to encourage. I’m happy new kinds of publishers are experimenting with it to create great things.

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