Kindle Vella — Binge-watching for Stories

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, we were used to having to be in front of our TVs in order to catch the adventures and antics of our favorite TV shows. If we missed an episode, it was gone and we didn’t know when or if we would have the opportunity to see it again. Now, it seems like everything is on demand and we can watch whatever we want, whenever we want. Binge-watching by going through huge chunks of whole TV seasons is still the norm. It is rare that people have to wait for anything.

The popularity of the episode format predates television. There are people alive today who can still remember their family gathered around the radio in order to catch their favorite episode of dramas, comedies and variety shows that aired on the radio. Some of these had hundreds of episodes (The Lone Ranger had more than 1500!). Fortunately, they are collected for us now and you can find them online if you want to binge listen to them in a way that your grandparents and great grandparents never could.

Before that there were serial episodes in print form. Charles Dickens first published his classic, Great Expectations, as a serial in his weekly publication, All the Year Around. In the early days of print, weekly and monthly publications like this often had a far greater readership and distribution model than a mere book might see and it allowed authors to reach a more diverse audience.

The internet helped revive the serial fiction market again and many sites have sprung up, often with a wide popularity as new stories are developed, frequently using popular characters in new and sometimes very inappropriate ways. While these sites are quite popular with a certain subset of the population, for the most part, they have yet to break into the mainstream. Enter Amazon, the largest book publisher in the world. Almost a year ago, Amazon decided to throw their hat into the serialized fiction ring with Kindle Vella, a new bookstore designed for this kind of episodic fiction.

This platform is still very much in a beta format and their approach thus far has created some confusion with regular Kindle readers over just what Kindle Vella is. In an effort to help new users of the platform, here is my guide to Kindle Vella for new users.

The Basics:

  • Kindle Vella stories are sold as electronic stories only (The author will have the option reselling it in another format after the story is complete, but while it is being written, the Vella platform is the only place you’ll find this story)
  • Like other Kindle books, you must have an Amazon account to read Vella stories
  • Currently, they can only be read on your computer, Kindle Fire, Android phone or iPhone using the Kindle app or a web browser
  • You start with the 1st Episode and read the stories one episode at a time and the first 3 episodes are always free
  • From the 4th episode on, you have to unlock each individual episode with Tokens. The amount of Tokens depends on the length of each episode in words. Tokens are very inexpensive, and are sold in blocks. The more Tokens you buy, the cheaper the cost of each Token (For example, currently you can buy 770 Tokens for $9.99, which is about enough for 30–35 episodes)
  • You Follow the stories you like and receive notifications in your Kindle app each time a new Episode is published
  • You show your appreciation for the story and the author by:

Giving each episode a Thumbs Up

Rewarding one story a week as your Fave (you earn this ability by unlocking episodes using Tokens that you have purchased)

Leaving reviews for the stories on Amazon

The Good about Kindle Vella

  • Amazon is giving free Tokens away currently so any Amazon user can try the platform out (including unlocking some episodes) for free
  • Reading the first 3 episodes for free is a great way to find stories you really like before committing to them.
  • There are already a growing variety of stories and genres on Kindle Vella, with a tag system that helps you find stories that fit your interests
  • Some Vellas are more like traditional books, but some are ongoing stories with many episodes or even stories divided up into seasons, so you can continue to follow the characters you have grown attached to

The Bad about Kindle Vella

  • The quality of the content varies greatly, so you may find some stories that are quite lacking. Fortunately, you can usually determine this while reading the free episodes
  • Vella stories currently cannot be read on Kindle readers, only computers, phones and tablets, so if you want to read these stories on your Kindle Paperwhite, Touch or Oasis, you’ll have to wait for that support to be added
  • Vella is US only for the moment. Sorry, international friends, you’ll have to wait
  • The Vella system is different and can be confusing, making it difficult to recommend the stories you love to new readers

Kindle Vella is just getting started and I hope you’ll give it a try. The cost to get started is literally $0. With time and support from great readers, this platform has a chance to be an exciting new way to experience wonderful stories, 1 Episode at a time.

I currently have 2 stories on Kindle Vella, a post-apocalyptic survival story, After It’s Over and a fantasy adventure story, The Force of Magic. I hope you will consider one of those for your first Kindle Vella experience!

Photo credit: Dom Sabasti

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Chad Hensley grew up in the great state of Oklahoma and attended the University of Oklahoma where he received a BA in English Literature in 1993.

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Chad Hensley

Chad Hensley

Chad Hensley grew up in the great state of Oklahoma and attended the University of Oklahoma where he received a BA in English Literature in 1993.

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