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Page count, pricing, and value propositions

Short does not equal cheap, especially when it saves me time

I was going to buy Chris Anderson’s new book but this review stopped me in my tracks:

Reads like a poorly written magazine article that has been unfortunately dragged out into a full-length book.

I’ve read far too many 300-page books that could have been summarized in 5-10 pages as a magazine article. Why do we insist on puffing up articles until they’re the length of a book? One reason is because we’re used to creating a spine presence on a physical bookshelf. That’s less of an issue these days, especially as ebooks become more popular. Another reason is that we haven’t figured out how to sell the value proposition that “shorter saves time so it’s OK to charge more for it.”

This is one area where Amazon gets it wrong sometimes. Kindle Singles don’t have to be cheap.

Anderson’s ebook lists for $12.99 for on bn.com. Rather than buying it and being disappointed I’d prefer paying $13.99 for a 10-page summary of the core content. Why pay more? Because it saves me time to read 10 pages vs. 300. That’s worth something to me. If publishers offered both options, $12.99 book-length and $13.99 summary, which version would sell more? Long-form will be more popular initially but short-form will eventually overtake it, especially as consumers get more comfortable with this model.

Btw, I’m not talking about those existing book summary services. I’ve tried two of them and they generally didn’t deliver, partly because they didn’t want to give away all the key elements of the book. More importantly, the summaries I tried weren’t written by the author.

Give me an ebook in summary format, written by the author, sell it at a slightly higher price and I’ll buy it. How about you?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/ochandler Otis Chandler

    Usually I hope that the first few chapters will be the summary you are looking for. That was the case with Andersons other books. 

    • jwikert

      Thanks Otis. So that begs two question: First, why bother with the remaining chapters? If it’s just to repeat what’s said in the first few chapters there’s not much value there for me. Second, does it really require a few chapters to summarize the key points in any book? I’ll bet not, so I figure there’s room to make the summary even shorter.

      • http://twitter.com/Porter_Anderson Porter Anderson

        Isn’t this part of the concept of the Citia approach to nonfiction? To deconstruct the more complex, narrative format and parse out the key points for presentation as individual modules?

        I couldn’t agree more with you guys, especially in the case of business books — so many tend to be one-trick ponies. I think the redundancies and digressions and elaborations are added to justify the price of a book for what is, probably, no more than a single’s worth of legitimate copy in the first place.

  • http://geobrava.wordpress.com/ David H Deans

    Agreed, many of the top ranked business books are full of pointless or repetitive narrative to fill the 200+ page publisher requirement. A concise long-form article could be all that’s needed to get the key points across to the reader — yes, less (edited content) is of more value to the busy reader.

  • http://www.erniezelinski.com/Bio-and-Contact.html Ernie Zelinski

    I agree with you. I try to point out to people that “Content is not king. Snackable content is king.”

    The problem is the vast majority of individuals aren’t like you. A lot of people don’t want to pay that much for a book, regardless of how great the content is. They now expect books for 99 cents or for free. On a recent Kindle Marketing Program forum where one female author had reduced the price of her ebook to 99 cents, another female author, “I really want to read your ebook but I will purchase it when it is on for free as a promotion.”

    To accomodate people who like a longer version and a shorter version, I created the print edition of my “The Lazy Person’s Guide to Success” such that the right hand pages had the long version of the book. The left hand pages, on the other hand, had a heading “For the Truly Lazy” and were dedicated to a short version of the book, much more poetic and with about a fifth of the content that was on the right hand pages. Although the book sold only about 8,000 copies in English through the Ten Speed Press edition, the book has been published in 11 languages and has sold over 100,000 copies worldwide. I am now trying to figure out how out to bring this out as an ebook so that it’s format will be the same and have the same effect as the print edition.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    International Best-Selling Author, Innovator, and Prosperity Life Coach
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 165,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

  • Rcoleman

    I’m an editor for an STM publisher, and we’re trying to explore ideas like this for clinical specialists or department directors. They don’t have time to read 300 pages, or 200 pages, or according to one director, even 25 pages. We have the challenge of identifying meaningful content that can be presented with serious brevity, and then making the case to our customers that the information is worth just as much (or more) when it’s condensed as when it’s combined/padded with a lot of other content.

  • http://twitter.com/lizcomm Elizabeth Eames

    Totally agree.  The ebook format is perfect for succinct summaries with action oriented information.  The books we are talking about here are not scholarly texts, readers are reading for information and insight- tips to help them do their jobs or grow their businesses more efficiently.  Let’s deliver the content efficiently, too.