There’s 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?’
This, of course, was when the physical dimensions of a book were considered important, because the thicker the book, the more potential sales value it would carry when it sat on a shelf in a bookstore.
When I look at some of the books in my own bookcase, 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, as it is a very short novel.
Further on are my Douglas Adams books, and starting with Hitchhikers’s Guide to the Galaxy, which is an incredibly short, and thin book; 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.
Today, however, while the physical size of a book may still matter in a bookstore, what about ebooks?
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.
Even then, is it possible to define how many pages 5,000 words is in an ebook? Amazon estimates a page in an ebook to be around 187 words. But depending on the e-reading device this must vary greatly between a phone and a tablet.
In two minutes I found ebooks ranging from 10 to 950 pages. There were rumours in 2013 that Amazon had set a minimum word count of 2,500 words, which was reported by many blogs including Galleycat.
I struggle to accept that 2,500 words can constitute a book, ebook or otherwise, but that is for others to decide.
What is noticeable, however, it 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 it is called now. It’s an ebook.
While I persist in informing my readers upfront if one of my ebooks is a novella, and therefore a short read, perhaps I am showing my age, and needn’t bother anymore.
It’s just an ebook.