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, of course, was when the physical dimensions of a book were considered important, because the thicker the book, the more sales value potential it would carry when it sat on a shelf in a bookstore.
When I look at some of the books on my own 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, as it is a very short novel.
Further on are my Douglas Adams books. Starting with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which is incredibly short, and a very 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. Clearly, Adams’ agent must have told him to pad it out.
How many pages is 6,000 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 6000 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, a tablet or a Kindle.
Here is what 187 words looks like in Microsoft Word.
Both pages are using Times New Roman 12 point font size. On the left, pages single spaced with 187 words fill 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 single-spaced.
Using Amazon’s number of words as a guide, 6,000 words would equal 32.08 ebook pages and 5,000 words would be 26.73.
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 20 pages amounts to only 3,740 words.
There were rumours in 2013 that Amazon had set a minimum word count of 2,500 words for a text-based ebook, which was reported by many blogs including Galleycat.
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.”
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, 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 at around 30,000 to 35,000 words, perhaps I am showing my age, and needn’t bother anymore.
So how many pages is 8000 words? Who cares how many 1000 words or pages are in it?
It’s just an ebook.
More reading: Self-Publishing: Expectations vs Reality For New Authors