Perhaps we can move closer to consensus on the books issue if folks will consider Henry Farrell’s argument that a large proportion of non-fiction books are too long. This is definitely my sense. One reason I haven’t wound up using my Kindle as much as I thought I would is that it’s dramatically easier to flip/scan/skim with a paper book and an awful lot of books that are by no means bad books demand a lot of flipping/scanning/skimming. This isn’t to say that books aren’t worth your time—the whole reason I flip and skim is that book-reading is so vital.
But in my experience it’s reasonably rare for even a pretty good non-fiction book to be an absolute masterpiece of composition that demands to be read from beginning to end. And unfortunately the trend is toward less-and-less in the way of the kind of editing that produces really well-crafted books. Maybe something about a trend toward more electronic publishing will shake up the economics of book-length and give us books that have less padding.