Why Do Short Ebooks Sell So Well

Do readers prefer short ebooks to read?

By chance, I was looking at the Amazon Kindle Store, and clicked on an ebook listed in the top twenty bestsellers. I scanned down the book’s details and was surprised to note that the ebook was listed as being only 105 pages in length.

Now, by this measure it is not easy to calculate the number of words, because what defines a page on Kindle? Perhaps a rough equivalent to a page in a trade paperback. I did a quick check of one of my own ebooks, which is a short novella, and saw that Kindle calculated it to be 110 pages long. I know this book is a shade under 20,000 words, so now I can say with certainty that any ebook listed on Kindle with around 100 pages, is less than 20,000 words.

To put this in perspective, a paperback of 100 pages would hardly be as thin as your little finger.

So we are talking about very short ebook reads here. Of course, I got curious and looked at a few more bestselling Kindle ebook titles.

In the top 20 ebooks on Amazon Kindle, I found 4 short ebooks at around 100 pages, and they were priced between $1.99 and $3.99. I could have dug deeper and found more quite easily I suppose, however, I was not interested in how many there were, but why these short ebooks were selling so well.

There has been a lot written about how reading an ebook is different from reading a book, and this article from the Guardian takes the view that readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper. While I am sure this topic is open to debate, perhaps it is not in the psychology or physiology, as much as in where, when and how an ebook is read.

If one considers the situations when an ebook reader is useful, perhaps a different logic is possible. Ebook reading is very convenient when travelling on a train, bus or plane, or when relaxing on a beach on vacation. Perhaps also, during a coffee break at work, or while passing time in a doctor’s waiting room. All of these situations though are prone to interruption, unlike reading a book while in bed or lazing on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon.

In these situations, light, short reads would make sense, and would give give good reason as to why short ebooks are popular and sell well.

Sure, there are reasons to publish long, but it appears that there is definitely a new reading market, for ebook shorts.

So, are you publishing long, or short?

This page was last updated on August 8th, 2017

7 thoughts on “Why Do Short Ebooks Sell So Well?

  • January 17, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    My latest novella Céleste is easing towards 30,000. I can’t see it going much beyond that. So does that make it a long short by your calculations?

    • January 17, 2016 at 3:35 pm

      Well, a trade novel is around 110,000 words. So short I would say, Jack.

  • January 17, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    I’ve always written short, whether it was a term paper, news article or what have you. So imagine my surprise when my recently published debut came in at 90,000+ words. Even then, my scenes still run short for a novel (1,200 words or so.) My next book will likely be barely 60,000.

    So I figure my work–sweet romantic comedy– is a good fit for the ebook format. Still, I think in order to pull off the shorter formats successfully (novella, short story, poetry, song) you’ve got to have a great command of craft, just to make sure you’re not simply writing an underdeveloped story and leaving any essential dramatic elements out.

    It’s hard to write “simple!”

  • January 22, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Off topic, but it would be really useful if you could include a ‘share’ option on your posts, so we can let other people know about them.

    • January 22, 2016 at 12:51 pm

      An interesting observation, Stuart. I did have share buttons on all posts, but I disabled them quite recently. Call it an experiment. Oddly enough though, since I removed them, the number of posts read per visit has doubled! Also, as most browsers and apps now have Facebook and Twitter sharing inbuilt, perhaps there is no real need for them.

  • January 28, 2016 at 10:11 am

    Short works out better for me, as that’s what I tend to write, despite my best efforts. I just have to accept that I don’t really write novels, that novellas are suitable for me and the way I write my stories. Since short ebooks sell better, these days, it’s all good.

  • September 13, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    I hate it when I’m surprised by a short story, mainly because it seems like the author was just trying to get out something quick and didn’t fully develop it. Though I will say on average the self-published ebooks I get do sometimes seem to be a bit shorter than the average book I’d buy from a store. However it’s usually not that big of a deal because the price is so much lower. However I have come across some that would’ve been barely a few pages long, but the worst are the ones who do serials and they’ve chopped up a novel and sell the few chapters at a time. That’s irritating because in the long run you’d end up paying way more than you would a regular novel just because you’re trying to finish the story. So it really depends on the quality I’m getting.


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