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.
I think that’s a great idea. Particular in the kind of political/policy space I work in, I think we see a ton of good magazine articles that outline ideas worth expanding on that get turned into books that are really quite a bit longer than they need to be. But conventions about content-length—the column, the magazine article, the book—are driven by the economics of printing and distributing bundles of ink-covered paper rather than considerations about the content itself. One of the great things about blogging is that it’s let people become more flexible about item-length when it comes to shorter kinds of things. Now it looks like the rise of e-reader technology will drive a similar trend toward flexibility at the longer end, which I think will be a big win for non-fiction writers and readers.