What Is a Serial

Glossary > Serial

đź’¬ Definition of Serial:

A serial refers to a print or non-print publication that is released in installments or parts. These can be comic books or serialized novels.

Related questions about a serial:

What’s the difference between serials and series?

A series refers to a set of books that are part of the same franchise and can be read in any order, as each book is a distinct, stand-alone story, even though they may have connections with one another. 

On the other hand, a serial is a continuing narrative that must be read in the proper sequence to understand the plot. A serial is still a series but with a stronger connection between the installments. 

Here’s an example of series and serial to better understand the difference between them:

  • James Bond novels are a series because you can read the books in any order and still understand them. What connects them is the main character and some of his enemies. 
  • The Harry Potter books are a serial because you have to read them in order to understand the action and the characters’ development.

Why are serials popular?

Serials started to be popular in the 19th century when printing costs became more affordable. Because they didn’t have to publish the entire novel, authors had to write only one story part at a time, giving them the flexibility to write the next part according to their readers’ expectations. Charles Dickens is one of the authors who published his books like this and they were a success. 

Today, serials are popular because they:

  • Build suspense: As a continuing narrative, each installment ends with a cliffhanger, making readers curious about what happens next. 
  • Focus on character development: Characters evolve with each installment, making readers become emotionally invested in them. 
  • Convenience: Since they’re released in installments, serialized books are easier to read than one long novel. This also allows readers to take breaks between installments, if needed, without losing track of the plot.
  • Cost: Serialized books can be less expensive than long novels, making them more accessible to a wider audience, but also for the authors. If they want to offer the print format, it will be less expensive.

How are serials published?

Serials can usually be found in print format. They also get published online or in digital formats, allowing readers to access them from anywhere with an internet connection.

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