While awaiting the next bus or supermarket cashier, smartphone users have been known to pass the time with games, social media or celebrity-gossip websites. A resident of the Short North is promoting a more highbrow option.
While awaiting the next bus or supermarket cashier, smartphone users have been known to pass the time with games, social media or celebrity-gossip websites.
A resident of the Short North is promoting a more highbrow option.
“Twitter’s fine; all that stuff is great. But sometimes you want to read something really great for 15 minutes,” said Preston Witt, creator of PhoneFiction, an on-the-go literary concept.
The mobile-friendly site, at www.phone-fiction.com, offers dozens of brief reads culled from authors nationwide.
Each work, in line with Witt’s objective, is prefaced by the estimated time that might be needed to complete it — typically two to 25 minutes (the span that one could spend on, say, Words With Friends).
A visitor to PhoneFiction is given the first sentence of a story, then asked to decide whether the prose seems enticing enough to keep reading.
A registered user rates stories with a thumbs-up or -down vote, helping the site tailor content to that reader.
Such an ethos mimics the yay-or-nay approach of many applications. (Pandora, for example, allows music fans to skip songs in a similar fashion.)
“It’s the way people read: .?.?. in shorter bursts,” said Witt, a 25-year-old who this spring will receive a Master of Fine Arts degree from Ohio State University, where the undergraduates he teaches prefer to read homework assignments on their phones.
With the digital endeavor, he said, he is focusing on writers with credentials. The site features 88 stories chosen from about 400 submissions. All of the works, which range from first-person essays to fantasy, have been featured elsewhere.
One participant, Katherine Jamieson, was eager to share.
“You publish something once in a literary magazine, and that’s it. Other journals aren’t necessarily interested,” said Jamieson, 39, of Whately, Mass., whose work has been published in national magazines and The New York Times.
Witt, also an editor for the OSU literary magazine The Journal, knows such frustrations firsthand.
Getting creative writing accepted by an academic title isn’t easy, he said, and the lack of compensation adds insult to injury.
Challenging, too, are the limited audiences of such specialized publications, he said.
Because many authors under such agreements retain the rights to their content, they can offer it to additional outlets such as PhoneFiction.
Witt isn’t paying most of the contributors — the site awarded two $500 prizes to top entrants — but he is hoping to find a way to make the platform profitable. A system to solicit reader donations is in the works.
Mark Lorenz, a Powell software programmer who designed the PhoneFiction interface, sees promise in the concept.
“The goal is to get reading as fast as possible,” said Lorenz, 32.
Cellphones are growing in popularity as an e-reader device, according to a January study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.
And an editor for The New Yorker — a champion of lengthy prose — last week told the news site Digiday that the magazine’s online readers are more likely to finish long-form articles read on smartphones than those read on computers.
Katie Berman, an English teacher at St. Francis DeSales High School, uses PhoneFiction with her students on Fridays.
The teens, naturally, enjoy using phones and tablets in lieu of textbooks.
But Berman has been told that their interest extends beyond the classroom: “While waiting for sports practice or a doctor’s appointment,” she said, “they’ll actually take out their phone and read a story — which I did not see coming.”