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Princeton University Press appears to be the first university press to join the e-singles game. On November 9, the press will launch Princeton Shorts, a series of nonfiction e-singles consisting of selections from previously published books.
The e-singles “stand alone well and which speak to either some current event or are just plain interesting and perfectly suited for digital digestion,” Rob Tempio, executive editor at Princeton UP, told me. The press is initially releasing five of them, priced from $0.99 to $4.99 depending on length, with more in the works. Titles include “The Future of Fossil Fuels,” from Kenneth S. Deffeyes’ Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage, and “The Five Habits of Highly Effective Honeybees (And What We Can Learn From Them),” from Thomas Seeley’s Honeybee Democracy. The e-singles will be available on all e-reading platforms with the exception of Apple’s iBookstore.
As befits the editor of a university press, Tempio provided me with a little history on Princeton UP’s previous experiences with singles in a time before e-books. In an e-mail, he wrote,
In 1963, the economists Milton Friedman and Anna Jacobson Schwartz published with us their monumental work, A Monetary History of the United States: 1867-1960. The work was an instant classic and one chapter in particular began to become very influential among economists–chapter seven, “The Great Contraction.” This was their take on the causes of the Great Depression. In 1965, the Press extracted that chapter from the book exactly as it appeared in the larger work and published it as a stand-alone paperback called The Great Contraction, which went on to be a classic in itself.
Bite-sized education in e-single format makes a lot of sense at a time when people are also watching lecture videos on iTunes or downloading professors’ podcasts–think of them as a little class that you can take on the subway, and expect to see more university presses following suit.