The Novella Finds A New Life In Digital Books

There are a lot of fixed costs in print publishing and distribution that don't depend on the length of a book. Digital-only distribution changes some of that. Personally I'm reading a lot more short pieces than tradional full-length books these days, and I'm much more likely to spring for a $2-$4 short read than a longer book that's likely to sit around unfinished for months.

This is one reason why the novella – the short novel of between 20,000 and 40,000 words – has never been hugely popular here. Publishers have tended to look on it with suspicion as being neither one thing nor the other, and magazine editors were likewise unenthusiastic, unlikely to welcome something that might take up a whole issue, unless its author was very famous and popular. The word “novella” was itself off-putting – not quite English, you know. Yet it’s a beautiful and satisfying form, a story that can be read in a sitting, and may be more substantial and satisfying than the short story.