The Limitations of Short Books

Thoughts on the problems with pithy manifestos.

big books

We all see the trend: books are getting shorter. Rock stars like Seth Godin are putting out 90-page books. Others are taking their cues from him and making everything shorter.

Now, I have nothing against a short book or manifesto. (Godin’s Poke the Box is a great read.) If you have a single point, why not make it in as few pages as possible? And, yes, many books clearly contain a great deal of fluff designed to get to that “magic” number of 200 or so pages ostensibly mandated by traditional publishers. After all, they can’t very well ask their potential customers to spend $24.95 for a 120-page hardcover, right?

Short books often come up, well, short.

The problem with shorter books is three-fold: First, they can be dismissed easier. While a book need not be as long as War and Peace, you lose some impact when you drop a thin book on a prospect’s desk. Sure, longer books may not be read as frequently, but they also run the risk of leaving people wanting more–much more.

I never want to do that.

Second, some books are about big ideas and, as such, can’t realistically be reduced to 100 pages. They can come off as trite, simplified, or lacking meat.

Third, to the extent that most authors do interviews and provide book excerpts, it’s much easier to “get” the overall idea of the book within five minutes. Those intrigued enough to go to Amazon.com can easily see the page count.

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