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Saturday, October 16, 2010

When Less Is More

I think this announcement from Amazon makes a ton of sense:

Less than 10,000 words or more than 50,000: that is the choice writers have generally faced for more than a century--works either had to be short enough for a magazine article or long enough to deliver the "heft" required for book marketing and distribution. But in many cases, 10,000 to 30,000 words (roughly 30 to 90 pages) might be the perfect, natural length to lay out a single killer idea, well researched, well argued and well illustrated--whether it's a business lesson, a political point of view, a scientific argument, or a beautifully crafted essay on a current event.

Today, Amazon is announcing that it will launch "Kindle Singles"--Kindle books that are twice the length of a New Yorker feature or as much as a few chapters of a typical book. Kindle Singles will have their own section in the Kindle Store and be priced much less than a typical book. Today's announcement is a call to serious writers, thinkers, scientists, business leaders, historians, politicians and publishers to join Amazon in making such works available to readers around the world.

Readers have long complained about books that are little more than articles padded to book length. The problem hasn't normally been long-winded authors or greedy publishers, but rather the realities of book marketing: It's hard to sell short books in a bookstore. Retailer margins on a book priced at, say, $4.99 are very small; and even finding a skinny 90-page book that is placed spine-out on a shelf amidst the usual 300-page tomes is very difficult!

The e-book format eliminates these problems. On Kindle, a 25,000-word book looks the same as a 100,000-word book. And clicking on an Amazon website to spend a few bucks for a pithy, insightful book I can read in a single sitting will feel exactly the same as buying a big $30.00 book I will have to invest several nights in.

This is exactly the sort of innovative publishing that digital technology makes possible. I'm happy to see Amazon leading the way once again.

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