View on ebook length


News that cheap and discounted ebooks dominate the ibookstore should perhaps come as no suprise as consumers trial book buying through the ipad.

This contributes to an assertion I've been making about the optimum size and price of ebooks.

The introduction of iTunes was game changing from the perspective of consumers being able to purchase individual tracks and not whole albums. While this may not work in books (no-one wants to individually buy the middle chapter of a novel I would assume), it's interesting to think what we can learn from all of this for ebooks.

In general, digital content is consumed in shorter units, the ultimate of which is the 140 character status update. I researched opinion on the ideal blog post length and there seemed to be consensus in the region of 250-450 words. When you take all of this together there are many pointers towards smaller pieces of content, at lower price points having great opportunity in ebooks.

Bodley Head have recognised this with the Brain Shots concept. I think this is a smart idea and it plays exactly to this principle of shorter content nuggets to help take advantage of the digital opportunity, For most non-fiction publishers much of our content will slice into smaller, more easily digested, pieces. If I think of a David & Charles Craft book, they are mostly project driven and there’s no reason why they wouldn’t slice into individual or grouped projects which could sell at a lower price point. It’s easy to see how this would apply in DIY, gardening, travel etc. 

Consumer adoption of this will come down to the sense of value. Without the physical book to hold & feel in the hand you don't lose out because of a lack of bulk - ultimately, it will be the strength of the content that drives up the value perception.

We'll be trialling a number of size, format & price point ebooks in the coming weeks and months and it'll be fascinating to see what the optimum mix is. What are your thoughts?