Monday, February 8, 2010

As If Books Aren't Dying Enough...

FT Press Delivers has taken it one step further by introducing, "The Elements which the publisher has priced at $1.99, are stripped-down, 1,000- to 2,000-word versions of already-published books, while the Shorts are newly written essays of about 5,000 words, priced at $2.99." 

So now no one wants o read a complete work? The Publisher suggests that this version of reading is just like a "healthy lunch on the go." It just kinda makes me sad.


  1. I think there's room for this short-form content model, which takes after iTunes to some degree. People often don't want to buy a full CD (or "album" in my generation's parlance) anymore, and can pick and choose individual tracks. So this is like a track from the full book, priced appropriately. I'm more of a full-book girl, so I sympathize with your sadness -- but I can see the benefit of short-form, low-price-barrier electronic content within a wider publishing plan.

  2. Full-disclosure: I'm a full-book kind of gal too...

    I seem to recall "Reader's Digest Condensed" versions of books being around at one point (are those still around, even?), and they have those sampler readers in the vending machines downtown (can't remember if they're cheap or free, but they're essentially short excerpts of books). And they do have abridged editions of classic works out there, albeit generally not down to 1K-2K words.

    So it does seem like a logical next step, even if it is kinda sad for people who like to read entire full-length novels (and makes the litgeeks cringe -- especially those who know that the allusion on page 365, of work X, in the middle of all that exposition, is what makes the revelation on page 475, a major plot point, that much more poignant and what catapults the work into the Canon Of Meaningful Literature).

    I do wonder whether this will herald the second coming of the novella as a salable form, though.

  3. Big fan of novellas, here (and novels, natch).

    One important difference with what FT Press is doing may be that it's nonfiction, professional business content -- as opposed to fiction. A subset of the full book's content may be a fully-formed idea, case study, etc. So it may work for this content type in a way that would be weird or fragmented in fiction.

    I remember Penguin did these tiny little Penguin 60s -- some were full short stories, but some were excerpts from longer books like Out of Africa. They were a small trim size, sold for ~$1, and I have a whole bunch of them (they make great stocking stuffers). I wouldn't usually buy an excerpt of a longer work of fiction -- but for some reason, that presentation was completely acceptable to me. Happy reading --

  4. I remember those Penguin shorts too! Agreed, it does fit into the mainstream idea of picking one or two items out of a whole to enjoy instead of investing in an all-or-nothing kind of way, but for some reason "Video Killed the Radio Star" pops in my head when I think about it.