by Henry Farrell on October 12, 2010

“Ars Technica”:http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/news/2010/10/amazon-aims-to-publish-shorter-content-as-kindle-singles.ars

bq. Amazon is rolling out a separate section of its Kindle store meant for shorter content—meatier than long-form journalism, but shorter than a typical book. Called “Kindle Singles,” the content will be distributed like other Kindle books but will likely fall between 10,000 and 30,000 words, or the equivalent of a few chapters from a novel. The company believes that some of the best ideas don’t need to be stretched to more than 50,000 words in order to get in front of readers, nor do they need to be chopped down to the length of a magazine article. “Ideas and the words to deliver them should be crafted to their natural length, not to an artificial marketing length that justifies a particular price or a certain format,” Amazon’s VP of Kindle Content Russ Grandinetti said in a statement. (Anyone who has ever read a terrible “business” or “self-help” book consisting of a single idea furiously puffed up into 200 pages of pabulum will no doubt agree with this sentiment.)

While I’m not greatly enthusiastic about Amazon as a company, I am hopeful that this form of publishing takes off (for reasons I “laid out”:https://crookedtimber.org/2010/02/09/towards-a-world-of-smaller-books/ a couple of years ago). I don’t particularly object to overly long self-help books or business books, since even if they were pithier, they usually would not be worth reading. I presume that the actual functions of these books is (in the case of business books) to provide a common, if conceptually empty, jargon for interacting with work colleagues, and (in the case of self-help books) to provide a symbolic substitute for actual self-help. Shorter electronic versions would not necessarily contribute to either of these functions.

However, I _do_ object to books which have an interesting insight, but pad it out across several chapters to make it publishable. More essays around the 20,000 word mark, taking an interesting point and elaborating it more than would be possible in a standard magazine article, would be a very good thing.