Text messaging has come to encompass a huge variety of communication, but did you know that it has even been used to publish novels? A rising genre known as the cell phone novel is a type of microfiction-based novel that is written on a cell phone and published in a series of text messages.
The cell phone novel first emerged in Japan, where the first such novel was written in 2003 by a Tokyo author using the name Yoshi. This novel, called "Deep Love," considered the practice of compensated dating in Japan. Many other early text message novels were romantic fiction of some form, addressing a range of themes such as love and relationships.
Though it has largely spread by word of mouth, the cell phone novel has enjoyed notable popularity in Japan; in 2007, half of the 10 bestselling novels in Japan were originally cell phone novels. The genre has since spread its reach into a number of other countries, in particular China, South Korea, the United States, South Africa, and Germany. Text message novels are most popular among young adults, and are usually authored by young adults, often students, who personally understand what their audience enjoys and relates to.
In cell phone novels, chapters are themselves pieces of microfiction, as each chapter is itself a text message and therefore limited to text message character restrictions. Chapters are also micropublished, often being sent as they are written. Readers are able to subscribe to a novel in progress via SMS or other means such as email or an online service. Novels are sometimes compiled via mobile apps or on websites dedicated to cell phone fiction, or sometimes even in printed books, for consolidated reading.
Text message novels offer readers a unique experience because of the way we relate to our cell phones. Printed novels are celebrated for affording readers an engaging, specific, and personal experience by allowing them to interact with a medium specific to literature as they read. Cell phones are much more multifaceted in nature, and many tend to have very personal, specific relationships with their phones. Taking the experience of reading a book to one's cell phone involves this relationship in the experience of reading, leading to a unique and personal engagement with text message novels.
Also compelling is the generational specificity of text message novels. It is unsurprising that cell phone novels enjoy so much popularity with young adult readers, as this age group tends to be more tech-savvy, and is far more inclined to prefer to use their phones for activities like reading. Because cell phone novels have a more narrow and specific audience, they are more inclined to speak further to their readership's interests as well as address issues relevant to their audience, similar to the young adult genre popular in the United States. Like YA novels, this quality allows cell phone novels to offer an even more personal experience to their readers.
While the cell phone novel has plenty of room to expand its reach as a genre, it has had a notable impact on many young people as well as the ways we approach technology and literature. The relationship between text messaging and art is already rich, and holds a promising future.
About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage,
Inc. a software company for communication software solutions.