The Future of the Ebook

Plympton Acquires Serial Fiction Pioneer DailyLit

"It's the kind of thing that needs a team that's really excited about it."
Ms. Lee and Ms. Love. (Photos: Plympton)

Ms. Lee and Ms. Love. (Photos: Plympton)

Good news for anyone who likes their fiction doled out chapter by chapter, Charles-Dickens style: Today at O’Reilly’s TOC Conference (livestream here for the interested) Plympton, the serial fiction studio cofounded by former New York Times reporter Jennifer 8 Lee and novelist Yael Goldstein Love, announced that they’re “joining forces” with DailyLit, a site founded in 2006 as one of the earliest experiments in digital books. The founders, former Random House exec Susan Danziger and her husband, Union Square Ventures partner Albert Wenger, will continue to advise and invest.

“I realized that DailyLit really needed a good shot in the arm,” said Ms. Danziger, who’d been working on the project herself in the last few years. “At a certain point, there’s only so far you can bring something, and it’s the kind of thing that needs a team that’s really excited about it.” 

The acquisition gives Plympton whole new customer-facing platform to play with, one that’ll allow the company to distribute its own content. So when the startup releases its next batch of titles, sometime in June, expect to see them more places than just Amazon. “We think the best thing for authors is to have their work as widely distributed in as many places as possible,” explained Ms. Lee. “We are anti-walled garden.”

The announcement also hints that they want to “bring the DailyLit experience up-to-date by developing new and engaging ways to give readers more power than ever to read what they want, when and where they want.” We sure hope she’s hinting at an update to DailyLit’s current delivery methods of email and RSS.

There’s also the fact that acquiring DailyLit ought to give a little boost to the startup in terms of its customer base. Over the years, Daily Lithas delivered more than 50 million installments to more than 800,000 readers. “We’ve been impressed how DailyLit has created an intimate and direct relationship with readers,” wrote Ms. Lee in the announcement. “When Susan sends out the newsletter to hundreds of thousands in the DailyLit audience, people write back personally.”

Plympton was launched last year in a particularly splashy moment, as Amazon debuted serial fiction offerings on the Kindle. DailyLit, on the other hand, was originally a passion project of Ms. Danziger and Mr. Wenger, who still codes for fun. In fact, Mr. Wenger built much of the early site while on a getaway in the Adirondacks.

DailyLit started out with just public domain offerings, but as readers requested more and more contemporary titles, Ms. Danziger began cutting deals with several publishers and launched a library of paid books. She eventually scaled back the program, which was perhaps a bit ahead of its time, but Plympton has the option of resurrecting it as the team updates the site.

Ms. Danziger admitted she’d been shopping the site around for the last year or so, and “we had other folks who were interested in bringing DailyLit into the fold,” many of them more traditional. “But how can you not work with Jenny?” she added. She cited the example of how Ms. Lee had gotten part of the coding for Plympton done: She told an MIT grad student she’d help him create an OK Cupid profile, including taking the photos herself.*

Speculating on the opportunity for the combined companies, Mr. Wenger said, “I very sincerely believe that whenever you get a transition from the offline world to the online world, the first iteration is going to be a straight-up copy. The most interesting things happen when you get past the straight-up copy.” That means companies like Plympton/DailyLit, USV’s own investment Wattpad, and even Rap Genius have a chance to really do something interesting.

When Plympton releases its next slate of titles, by the way, one of them will tackle a subject near and dear to Betabeat’s cold, withered heart: love in the digital age. We’re told WinkPoke will be part riff on the New York Times‘ “Modern Love” column, part updated “Sex and the City.”

*The original version of this article suggested the MIT grad student had already had an OK Cupid profile which Ms. Lee revamped; in fact she helped him create one. We also misstated the name of Plympton’s upcoming release, WinkPoke. Betabeat regrets the errors. 

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