Some days, it’s impossible to sit down to read a long book. Maybe you’re waiting to be admitted to an appointment, or maybe you’re standing in line. You might be on public transit, where balancing that hardcover doorstopper you checked out of the library is simply impossible. In those moments when your attention could be drawn to something else at any moment, it’s convenient to have something shorter to read.
That’s where the current renaissance of serial fiction comes in. Publishers like Serial Box, Amazon, and apps like Tapas have created a host of short reading experiences when you only have twenty minutes (or less) to spend looking at your device. To know where to get your serial fiction online, whether on your phone or your computer, check out these recommendations to get your fix.
My all time favorite serial app is Serial Box. The Serial Box team has been creating original serials from writers-room style writing teams, much like how television shows are written. As their library of original content has grown, they’ve also adapted several previously published projects, such as the Associated Press’ nonfiction 1776: The World Turned Upside Down, for their platform, as well as classic reads and short fiction. The original serials span a wide variety of genres, from their first urban fantasy serial, Bookburners (now completed) to their recent prose adaptations of Marvel and DC superhero properties like Marvel’s Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire (currently running) and Marvel’s Black Panther: Sins of the King (coming soon).
One of the biggest perks of Serial Box serials is that any episode purchased includes the audio version, which is great for readers who need their fiction on the (literal) run. Narrators for the serials have included Tatiana Maslany, who narrates the characters she depicted on screen in the Orphan Black serial; Summer Glau of Firefly and Alphas as the reader of Alternis, a futuristic LitRPG; David Tennant and Catherine Tate, who share the narration of Serial Box’s Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Adventures; and Hamilton stars Chris Jackson and Nicholas Christopher, who appear in 1776. The app also makes it super easy to switch back and forth between listening to audio and reading the prose (in case your run is interrupted and you just want to finish your story on the sly).
Fans of SFF will recognize a ton of luminaries and award-winners who have contributed to the library of serials: Max Gladstone, Amal el-Mohtar, Yoon Ha Lee, Becky Chambers, SL Huang, Rivers Solomon, Tananarive Due, Stephen Barnes, Malka Older, Fran Wilde… the list goes on!
Radish features thousands of stories in their library, many from a wide variety of self-published authors. Some authors also choose to pre-release portions of titles on the app to drum up anticipation for upcoming releases. A community feature also allows readers to interact with each other and share their thoughts on the stories. The app boasts writers from television shows including General Hospital and Days of Our Lives, as well as emerging writers. Readers subscribe to stories for micro-payments, starting below a dollar, that are charged with each episode. Readers can search by genre as well as tags (including “werewolf,” “rebellion,” and “blackgirlmagic”) to select their titles. Some of the top series include Radish originals Torn Between Alphas and Vampire Prep.
Tapas offers comics and novels, some available from traditional publishing houses, such as Hachette, who have licensed their books (such as excellent kid’s book The Wild Robot by Peter Brown) to the app. Most of the serials are from self published authors, including (now movie-famous) Andy Weir, whose The Martian was originally a serial at his own website before it was a feature film. The majority of the library on Tapas is completely free to read, but other premium stories have to be unlocked with coins and keys, available in micro-transactions.
The biggest draw-back of the app is that the bite-sized chunks are very small, so readers won’t likely want to just get by on the keys and coins they can “earn” from the app’s promotions. The big benefit is that you get both prose and comic stories—and sometimes the same story is published in both formats, such as app exclusive, They Say I Was Born a King’s Daughter. Some in-app purchases go to directly supporting the creators, so they can do more writing!
Wattpad and Tap
Wattpad is one of the oldest and best known online indie serial hosting sites. Because they’ve been around for a long time, they have a huge library to browse through in a host of genres. They’ve also dabbled in interactive fiction with their messaging-based story serial app called Tap, which gives serials an extra sense of immediacy that mimics some of the fun of an alternate reality, transmedia game like Andrea Phillips’s brilliant The McKinnon Account. The stories are animated like a text screen, so readers follow a “live chat” with each chapter, and the reader’s choices can help decide the story.
Like in Tap, readers can influence the direction stories take in Chapters. While the choice options aren’t as extensive as games from Choice of Games or the Choices series, throughout the novels, readers are able to make subtle changes to the narrative. Some choices are premium, and require in-app currency to purchase. Readers can unlock (rent) a full story for one day, or they can read in small bite sized chunks and put the app away until they receive the daily check in bonus. For readers who enjoy reading something once (rather than rereading), these quick reads are entertaining fun.
Bookshots is James Patterson’s bite-sized fiction project: two novellas come out each month, priced at $3.99. Patterson is the idea man while his co-writers do the heavy prose lifting, and several dabble in Patterson’s previously established worlds, including his Alex Cross books. The library contains two genres: thriller and romance, both of which lend themselves well to the shorter format.
What about an app that delivers story content the way you’d keep up with your friends via social media? That’s the conceit behind Long Shorts, an app that delivers stories in a host of genres: fantasy, comedy, romance, nonfiction, mystery, sports, realistic YA, and classics converted to this new format. The stories update in “real time,” meaning readers only receive a short chunk of story at a time. If you’re interested in trying out this new social fiction format, download their app on Android or iOS.
Rather than creating new content, Serial Reader focuses on making it so readers can access classic works of literature in bite-sized chunks. With more than 600 public domain books available (including Pride and Prejudice and The Time Machine), the app allows readers to customize the fonts and colors of their reading experience, and offers notifications when new issues are available. Each issue is designed to be read in 20 minutes or less, which means you don’t get so wrapped up in the story that you miss whatever appointment you’re waiting for!
These websites aren’t apps, but they serve a similar function to apps Radish and Tapas: they provide listings of serial fiction popular around the web. If you’re looking for more than what we’ve investigated here at Den of Geek, visit either Top Web Fiction, a voting site where the most popular serials rank, and Web Fiction Guide, which has both curated and popular user lists. If you find a good one we haven’t covered, tell us about it!And to keep up with the serials we cover, keep an eye out for our next best serial fiction update!