What are Cell Phone Novels?

A cell phone novel or mobile phone novel is a literary work made for cellular phones or mobile devices. Writers post their works online, and consumers can read it through their devices. An online literary work counts as a cell phone novel if the author publishes it on a dedicated website for cell phone novels. The device must also have the capability of displaying cell phone novels as intended.

The primary audience for cell phone novels is teenage girls. Cell phone novels have shorter sentences and limited characters compared to conventional novels. The text limit and narrow horizontal screens of mobile devices force writers to use few words, and the writing style involves white spaces, line breaks, and fragmented phrases. Writers include free-flow poetry, contemplations, descriptive emotions, and prose narrative. Cell phone novels have thoroughly-designed structures like haiku.

Some of the common literary genres in cell phone novels are romance, drama, high-school scandals, erotica, and the “gyaru” (ギャル) or “gal” culture. New genres, such as science fiction and thriller, have also made appeared in cell phone novels. Cell phone novels have a swift plot development in every chapter. Writers would send new chapters one after another. The appeal behind cell phone novels is trendy stories by youth writers, first-person perspectives, and convenience.

Some of the popular cell phone novels for the past decade are Koizora: Setsunai Koi Monogatari by Mika, Secondhand Memories by Takatsu, Akai Ito (Threads of Destiny) by Mei, and Ousama Game by Nobuaki Kanazawa (pen name: Pakkuncho).



“Keitai shousetsu” (ケータイ小説/携帯小説) is a combination of two words. The first compound word is “keitai denwa” (携帯電話) or portable telephones. Its colloquial term is “keitai” (携帯). “Shousetsu” (小説) or novel comes from “shou” (小) or short, and “setsu” (説) or narrative/tale/story.


A Brief History

The best comparison between cell phone novels and classical Japanese literature is Genji Monogatari by Shikibu Murasaki. Dating back in the 11th century, people considered Genji Monogatari as the first “modern” novel. It has the same compact texts, flowery poetry, artistic value, personal accounts, and romantic tales.

Japan pioneered advanced mobile phone technology at the dawn of the new millennium. Japanese mobile phones featured cameras, multimedia entertainment, wireless network connection, and personalization options. Despite the vast features, these mobile phones were only popular in Japan and not overseas.

Cell phone novels started during the 2000s. They were part of the Japanese web novel genre during that time. Mobile internet connection was limited, but certain mobile devices had 3G internet network capability. They can display web novel sites in a limited space and format.

The first cell phone novel written on that genre was Deep Love by Yoshi. It was later adapted into several novels, manga, and film. More writers followed suit with the popularity of cell phone novels.

Cell phone novels subsided in 2008. The development of SNS technology, as well as the decline of gal culture, may have declined the cell phone novel genre. Later that year, Takatsu brought cell phone novels from Japan to the United States. He wrote Secondhand Memories in the style of cell phone novels.

Smartphones became popular in 2010. Cell phone novels were integrated with web novels in general. In recent times, the cell phone novel writing industry shifted to other genres, such as smartphone novels or TL novels.


Modern Usage

The advancement of cellular technology allowed writers to make short entertainment in a few sentences. It encouraged creativity despite the limitations of mobile devices. Despite technological advancements and the introduction of smartphones, the tone and writing style of cell phone novels carried on up to now.


Pixiv Encyclopedia, https://dic.pixiv.net/a/ケータイ小説, Retrieved 13 March 2020.
“CELL PHONE NOVELS“, Takatsu, http://stakatsu.com/cell-phone-novels/, Retrieved 13 March 2020.
Dooley, Ben, “Big in Japan: A Cellphone Novel For You, the Reader”, The Millions, https://themillions.com/2008/01/big-in-japan-cellphone-novel-for-you.html, 31 January 2008, Retrieved 13 March 2020


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