Amazon's e-readers are successful largely because of the ecosystem they tap into: Amazon's wide Kindle catalog makes it an easy pick for readers, and the company said last year that its Kindle-exclusive titles had been downloaded over 100 million times. Now, competitor Barnes & Noble, whose Nook business is struggling to stay afloat, is trying to bolster its own store with exclusive short stories and essays. Nook Snaps, as they're called, have been commissioned by Barnes & Noble from Jessanne Collins (managing editor of Mental Floss), novelist Michael Dahlie, and others. Amazon, by comparison, has pulled in exclusive deals with authors like Stephen King.

Each work is at least 5,000 words long and sells for $1.99 apiece; Barnes & Noble is planning to release a new selection of three to five exclusive works every other month. While this push to sell exclusive stories is new, the Snaps program has actually been around for some time. Nook Snaps was among the first wave of e-singles stores, which offered works that were shorter than books but longer than most magazine articles. They're described as "snackable" content in a 2011 Nook Color announcement. Now, with Barnes & Noble in dire financial shape and Nook sales dropping fast, the company hopes to make its e-readers a little more attractive by putting them in the spotlight — whether for its own benefit or that of prospective buyer Microsoft.