Startup Plympton acquires DailyLit to deliver serial fiction in a digital age

Plympton, the startup launched last year by former New York Times reporter Jennifer 8 Lee and novelist Yael Goldstein Love, is acquiring DailyLit, a site that delivers books in installments by email and RSS, for an undisclosed sum. DailyLit was founded by former Random House exec Susan Danziger and her husband, Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures, in 2006, and Danziger and Wenger will invest in and advise Plympton.

Plympton was the publisher of three of Amazon’s first Kindle Serials. The company continues to commission new series — one upcoming project is WinkPoke, an ongoing series of short stories about love in the digital age — but they probably won’t be exclusive to Amazon. Plympton sees its acquisition of DailyLit as a way to gain readers across platforms. To help oversee the technical aspects of the acquisition, Plympton has hired Jacqueline Chang, an MIT graduate and previously an engineer at StumbleUpon, as its chief technology officer.

When DailyLit launched, its mission was to deliver free, public-domain works of fiction in installments to readers’ inboxes. It’s since expanded to include some paid titles and occasionally partners with publishers to give away some in-copyright content (a Jhumpa Lahiri short story, for instance). There are now 953 free titles on its platform. DailyLit says that over 800,000 readers have received over 50 million installments of books. But the company’s been slow to adapt to tablets and smartphones, which — along with Kindle — weren’t around when it launched. Danziger recalls that New York magazine included DailyLit in its “Approval Matrix” in 2007 — and placed the idea of reading on your phone in the “Brilliant but Despicable” quadrant. “I remember thinking, at least we got ‘brilliant,'” she says.

With the acquisition, Plympton hopes to tap DailyLit’s reader base and modernize its delivery platform — and it plans not just to promote Plympton’s original series, but also promote serialized titles from other publishers. Lee says that Plympton wants to “re-imagine the entire DailyLit experience. That means everything from commissioning works meant to be read natively in digital format to finding the best way to deliver those stories to readers when they want and how they want it.”

The announcement was timed to coincide with the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference in New York Wednesday.