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One of Our First Free Kindle Nation Shorts Authors Climbs the Bestseller List with a Smart New Novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore


Here’s a little story about a little story that became something much bigger.


Way back in June of 2009 I got an email from a reader named Robin Sloan, and it got my attention:

Hi Stephen,

I’m a Kindle owner & have been a reader of indieKindle for a while
now. I thought you & your readers might be interested in a short story
I just published, w/ a Kindle edition.

Not just a random recommendation; I mention it for two specific reasons:

1. I think there might be a trend brewing w/ indie short fiction on
the Kindle. It’s the perfect platform for short stories — and that’s
notable because they don’t really have any other platform at all these
days. You’ve focused on the indie part of the equation; I think the
indie short story, in particular, might be ready for a Kindle-powered

I was inspired, in large part, by screenwriter John August’s short
story for Kindle, released recently and I’d love to see a whole ecology of indie short fiction grow up
around this platform.

2. My story is about books, writing, & technology, and how all that’s
changing. So, for people fascinated by the Kindle, and what it
suggests about the future, I think it’s an especially interesting

Anyway, just wanted to mention it.

Thanks for considering, & thanks for the blog —


I read the story, “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.” I found it pretty remarkable, and 10 days later it became the third installment in a brand-new program that I had just dubbed Free Kindle Nation Shorts. If you didn’t read it at the time, I hope you’ll check it out now right here.


But as you may have already figured out, our free publication of Robin’s story was just the beginning, and Robin continued to shape and build upon that story until it became a full-length debut novel under the same title. That book was released this Tuesday (by FSG in hardcover and MacMillan in ebook form) and it has already taken off, flirting with the Top 100 on Amazon’s bestsellers list.


I just finished reading the full-length novel today, and it is a wonderful, smart, contemporary and fully imagined novel that I can recommend without reservation. Rather than gush about it myself, let me share British novelist Nick Harkaway’s take on Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore:


“I love this book . . . It’s a good-hearted, optimistic book about friendship and being alive and the lure of the mysterious. It’s a book that shows you Google the way Google sees itself, and bookshops the way bookshops ought to be. It’s a tonal roadmap to a positive relationship between the old world and the new. It’s a book that gets it. Plus, you know: book cults, vertical bookshops, hot geeks, theft, and the pursuit of immortality. This book is in my emotional heartland.”


I loved it. I think you will love it. It’s remarkable how many of our Free Kindle Nation Shorts authors have gone on to achieve great publishing success in one form or another. And it’s exciting to me that we are able to continue to help so many authors connect with you, the world’s greatest readers.

And I suspect you’ll agree that, like many of the authors to whom we have helped introduce you, Robin Sloane is someone worth keeping an eye on — in addition to being a talented novelist and self-described “media nerd” and “media inventor,” he’s also one of the creators behind one of the smartest videos ever uploaded, a future history of the media circa 2014.

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