Over the last few years I have made it a goal to translate and publish great Japanese literature so that more people can enjoy stories that would otherwise be unavailable to them. I’ve managed around 20 books by now (mostly e-books with a few paperbacks and one audiobook), and will continue to put out books gradually over time. But one of the challenges I have dealt with is how to efficiently publish short stories on a platform that gives readers a world-class reading experience. Publishing e-books using KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) is overall a pretty good platform, but for a handful of reasons I feel it is not that well suited for shorter works. (In theory I could just do bigger, less-frequent releases, but it’s more rewarding for me to do smaller releases.)
That is why I was really excited to hear about Amazon’s new platform Kindle Vella that is an extension to their existing Kindle offerings. In a nutshell, Vella allows serialized content to be published and updated on a frequent basis, and readers can buy as many individual “episodes” they want. The first few episodes are free, and then after that readers can enroll and buy tokens, then use those tokens to buy more episodes, where the cost is proportional to the length of the episode. (There are also some free tokens given when you sign up.)
This model gets rid of the majority of issues I had with KDP and publishing shorter stories, so I am really excited to announce “Gensen: Selected Stories in Modern Japanese Literature”, which is essentially a Vella-hosted literary magazine where I will publish a variety of stories by notable Japanese authors. Like everything on Vella, you can read the first few episodes free, including the introduction and over half of the first story. And if you like it enough to start buying episodes, a single episode will be roughly 10 cents to 50 cents (depending on the length), with an even cheaper per-episode cost if you purchase token bundles. My first non-free episode is 17 tokens, which is only around 17 cents.
These are the first two stories which I have already completed and are available on Gensen now:
- “Cactus Rose” (仙人掌の花) by Nogitaro Yamamoto (山本禾太郎)
- “Acala the Immovable” (生不動) by Sotoo Tachibana (橘外男）
Both of these stories are somewhat dark, atmospheric pieces; the first is a mystery (or perhaps physiological thriller is a better category) about a man who is essentially stalking a woman staying at a Onsen resort to recuperate from a serious illness. The second is about a trip to a remote part of Hokkaido where the narrator witnesses a devastating accident, written somewhat in the style of a travel essay.
If you want to get some Japanese listening practice your can find narrations of these stories on YouTube (here and here), just be aware that the Japanese is somewhat difficult (especially the second one).
Neither of these authors has had much exposure to Western readers yet, but I really love these stories and I am happy to make them available in this form. Going forward, I plan to publish stories from a variety of genres, and for the third story I already have something in mind that is more up-beat for a change of pace.
At present it looks like Vella supports iOS, Android, Fire tablets, and web-based reading. But since this is still a relatively new platform, I am sure we will see more changes and more device support added in the near future. If anyone has questions on how to use Vella, feel free to contact me and I would be glad to help (email: selftaughtjapanese [at] gmail.com). But simply liking, following, or writing a review about Gensen––a word which means ‘carefully selected’ (厳選) by the way––will be a great help to support my efforts here. If this project gets enough viewers I may even branch out into more modern authors and consider things like listing bilingual stories.
As usual, I’d like to give a great thank you to Kaimai Mizuhiro (開米瑞浩) for helping confirm some of the meanings of a few passages, and to Jim Miles (of Annotranslate) for help proofreading the first two stories.