For a literature major it’s somewhat shameful to have to confess that I find really long books daunting. From the Steve Jobs biography to the Game of Thrones series (both of which are on my “what I want to read next” list) page counts north of 400 pages give me pause. So many words, so little time.
Inveterate bookworm that I’ve always been, I remember the days when nothing was as exciting as having a giant doorstop of a book at hand and a school vacation (or even a sick day) providing unfettered hours of reading. Now, with manuscripts, proposals, blogs, articles, e-mails and all the other content fighting for attention, a really long book produces something akin to apprehension, maybe anxiety. Which is why I found Marc Wortman’s piece in The Daily Beast so interesting.
Of course, I’ve always been aware of the economics of publishing long books—we have, on occasion, advised authors to trim unwieldy manuscripts with the warning that editors are sometimes scared of fat tomes and not just because they take so much time to edit but because they are more expensive to produce. Wortman’s argument that e-book pricing is encouraging authors to write more and publishers to cut less is, therefore, intriguing and not altogether surprising.
Dickens and other serial writers of the 19th century got paid for content, so more was definitely more. Now, according to Wortman, publishers want to charge more for e-books and feel they can justify doing so by offering longer books. Interesting theory. Not sure there’s sufficient evidence to support it, but I wouldn’t be shocked if there’s some truth to it.
How do you all feel about long books? And, does it make a difference whether you’re reading them in print or on your e-reader?