Does length matter?

Along with the rise of the ebook has come the rise of the novella. It seems lately, most of the books I’ve been downloading for my Kindle are under 40,000 words. Why is this? I think electronic media simply removes the limitations that come with efficiently and cost effectively binding paper books for mass distribution. However, just because we are now free to publish books of all lengths that doesn’t mean we should do so without putting some thought into it.

Do we get more by getting less?
One benefit to this and one reason I think some authors are eagerly producing shorter works is that it allows them to release new works more often. That can help them build a readership more quickly…if readers are content with shorter length stories. I don’t mind the shorter length. In fact, I like it as long as the story is still developed to a satisfying conclusion. On the other hand, I do sometimes get annoyed when I can’t figure out the length of the work before I buy.

How long is it anyway? Or…why I shout at my kindle app.
Maybe we need some standardization of lengths or just how we deal with those lengths. Do we need a labeling system, a price structure, or some other standardization that will help readers? I buy books from a variety of sources and even if you only look at kindle, there are three interfaces for shopping (kindle device, kindle app, amazon website) and each is a little different. Sometimes the interface or shopping site I’m using doesn’t list the length at all—my android Kindle app being the worst offender. Maybe this is the universe’s way of telling me I shouldn’t be reading on my phone so much. Even if the page count is provided, these are sometimes padded with teasers and extra matter. I understand the need for those materials and even appreciate them, but it can be confusing at the point of purchase. Pricing seems to provide no clue, varying widely and not always relate to length.

It isn’t the length that matters its…the HEA.
Is all this much ado about nothing? Does length even matter? To me, yes. Depending on my schedule I may have a length preference. Sometimes, I’m looking for either a short or long read. There are times when I just want a shot of escape and the lift I get from the happy ending. At those times I don’t want to start a longer book. Even if it is amazing, starting it won’t give me the kick I’d get from reading to the end of something shorter. Do I sound like an HEA addict? All I know is I wants what I want.

Sometimes I can figure out length by looking at the reviews. I think the most common phrase I’m finding in amazon review titles these days is “too short”. That leaves me wondering if that is a sign of a shorter story that doesn’t do its job of providing the satisfying read or if it is just people craving a longer read. Judging by all the door stoppers of wild success (the books of Rowling, King, Clancy, Sanderson, etc) there are many readers out there who want a long read. I’ve always trended toward shorter novels and novellas though I occasionally like a short story and often happily live in a good 450 pager for a few days.

This trend toward shorter books has been fun for me, since I can more often find a one evening read that will meet my needs without keeping up until sunrise. I just want to find a better way of knowing what I’m getting.

What do you think?
Have you noticed this trend toward shorter books? If so, what do you think about it? What price do you think is fair for an ebook novella? Do you believe a novella length story can be satisfying? Will we pay some price for the new prevalence of shorter fiction? (Traditional length readers get so annoyed they back off of the marketplace and deliver a blow to the industry.) Is this a transitional phase? Or a hint of a future full of possibilities?

PS. I do have more book recommendations and discussions coming. I’ve been doing LOTS of reading, just having trouble sitting at the internet-able computer to work on the blog.