There is an old story that goes like this.
When an author submitted his new 35,000-word manuscript to his/her literary agent, the agent says, “um, looks good, but can you pad it out to 90,000 words?”
That was when the physical dimensions of a book were an important consideration.
Because the thicker the book, the more sales value potential it would carry when it sat on a shelf in a bookstore.
Does word count matter?
When I look at some of the books on my bookshelf, my collection of James Clavell novels are all very thick, either in hardback or paperback.
Yet in the middle of them is King Rat, which must have escaped Clavell’s literary agent’s attention.
It is a very short novel and a thin book.
Further on are my Douglas Adams books. Starting with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It is incredibly short, and a very thin book.
But it is noticeable that all the subsequent books by Adams became thicker and thicker.
The Salmon of Doubt looks like a tome next to HHGTTG. Clearly, Adams’ agent must have told him to pad it out.
How many pages is 5000 words in an ebook?
Today, however, while the physical size of a book may still matter in a bookstore, ebooks have no dimensions.
It only takes a quick scan of a handful of ebooks, say in the Kindle Store, to notice that the number of pages that constitutes an ebook is almost as wide as the Pacific.
So, is it possible to define how many pages 5000 words is in an ebook?
Amazon used to estimate a page count in an ebook to be around 187 words. However, it seems as if the number might have increased to around 250.
But depending on the e-reading device and the font size setting, it varies significantly between a phone, a tablet, or a Kindle.
If a page is 500 words on an iPad, and 250 words on a Kindle, it might be only 120 words on a phone.
Here is what 187 words looks like in Microsoft Word.
Both pages are using Times New Roman 12 point font size. On the left, a page with single line spacing with 187 words fills only a quarter of the page.
The page double-spaced on the right fills less than half the page. To fill a page in Word, you would need around 500 words, 1.5 spaced or 750 words per page single-spaced.
How many pages?
Using Amazon’s number of words as a guide, 5,000 words would equal 26.73 ebook pages, and 6,000 words would be 32.08.
In two minutes, I found ebooks ranging from 10 to 950 pages. Would you pay good money for a 15-page ebook? An ebook with 15 pages amounts to only around 3000 words.
It is still not clear if Amazon has a defined minimum word count for Kindle ebooks. The only mention is hidden deep in its Help pages.
“We do not allow content that disappoints our customers or creates a poor shopping experience, including but not limited to content that is too short.”
So what is too short? 300 words? 1000 words? 1500 words?
In any event, I struggle to accept that 2500 words can be called a book in any form.
Even a 5000 words essay, at a little over 20 pages, is only slightly longer than an online article or blog post.
Short is popular
What is noticeable, however, is that short read ebooks are very popular.
A check of some of the bestseller lists on Kindle reveals that ebooks at around 100 -150 pages are selling very well.
In past times, books of this length would have been classed as novellas.
But as an ebook has no dimensions, it hardly matters what you call it now. It’s an ebook.
I always let readers know upfront if one of my ebooks is a novella, and therefore a short read at around 30,000 to 35,000 words. But perhaps I’m showing my age and don’t need to bother anymore.
So how many pages is 1000 words? How many pages is 3000 words? Who cares about word counters, or how many words or pages are in it?
It’s just an ebook. So it doesn’t matter anymore.