Size zero books are healthy

Amazon have announced that they’re going to be adding virtual shelf space for ‘Kindle Singles‘ – ebooks of 10,000-30,000 words that are a bit too long to be articles, and a bit too short to be books. They obviously will retail much cheaper than standard ebooks, perhaps from 99p to £2.99?

While outlets for these sorts of works aren’t new, I for one think it’s a killer move for Amazon, who through the success of their device, look set to to sit even more comfortably on their throne.

I’ve noticed – and other people I’ve conversed with have noticed the same – that there are actually many books that would’ve benefited from feeling jealous of pamphlets to sharpen their message. For example, a current non-fiction book I’ve just finished reading would’ve worked just as well if it lost 50% (yes, I’ll type it again: 50%) of its pages. Why? Although I thought it was excellent, it was exceedingly repetitive, in fact it’s unfortunate that the most extreme example was my recent read.

It’s not entirely authors faults though. Up ’til now authors have had to adhere to certain word counts for two reasons: firstly to justify having something significant being sent to the printers and secondly for advertising purposes alone. A book with an obese spine will stand out in a book shop if it’s even just put on it’s side, and mentally a lot of us think (at least I often do) that more pages means more information, and the larger the price tag the better it must be.

Since the internet explosion though, book sizes on screen are equal size cover shots. You might also get a word count, but unlike in a physical book store you’re more tempted by customer reviews. In Waterstones nobody will come up to you when you’re examining a book and say: “Five stars!” But up til now, the rules of the physical world were/are more powerful than the digital world.

Shorter books will – hopefully – mean less padding and repetition, and may even bring in readers who don’t read much as they currently can’t find the time or are intimidated by the investment needed in tackling military sized Harry Potter instalments. In short, people that like magazines and newspapers, TV and net articles.

I don’t have so much of a problem with long fiction but most people write that because short fiction doesn’t seem to pay much. Maybe the Kindle Singles will change that, or maybe I’m just sucked in by the hype and it’s all nonsense. I really think though that people would prefer more short, sharp novellas and non-fiction as content overload has reduced our attention spans and we want to know more from more than more from less and fast. When you have an ebook reader you also don’t worry about physical dimensions any more too.

The same thing applies to books and films: though you can fill a CD with 80mins of music, are you more engaged with an 80min album than an older 45min one designed to meet vinyl restrictions? How long should an album even be now when the medium length can be an infinite online digital form? Is Avatar a great film because it’s very long and can fit comfortably on a single Blu-Ray disc?

The answer to the last one is definitely no, although it’s interesting eye candy…I’m beginning to lose track about what all this was about; I guess, I mean to say ignore the size of the box. Is what’s in the box good?

…I’ll end before this gets dirty.

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