Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 22:52 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 22:52 | SYDNEY

The second draft of history


Andrew Carr


1 November 2011 09:23

Last month, Sam noted the peril of being a heavy non-fiction reader. Tomes over 600 pages demand an investment of time most of us are unwilling, or unable, to give. Thankfully, there is an emerging alternative called Kindle Singles which are playing an increasingly important role in public debate:

Why has [US] unemployment stayed so high for so long? Some economists point to weak demand. Others note credit-starved companies shedding jobs to pep up profits....Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew ­McAfee, two economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, make a powerful case that a different villain is to blame: technology. Their essay is interesting as part of a trend for speedily produced ebooks on urgent economic issues, and it contains more insight in its 60 pages than many books three times the length.

While printed novels are both aesthetically appealing and only financially viable at greater lengths, ebooks are free of these constraints. Writers can now create publications that are the length the content dictates, not their publishers. And freed of the need to stretch an argument out to 300- pages, writers should also be able to respond much more quickly to current events.

Economists are not the only ones getting in on the act. The tsunami in Japan, the Arab Spring, even the Occupy Wall Street movement have all spurred Kindle Singles. Everyone from self-published hacks, established greats like Christopher Hitchens, even organisations like Foreign Policy, have used the format. Longer than a magazine essay, shorter than a book, short ebooks are destined to become our second draft of history.

Of course, you'll want an iPad or tablet to most comfortably read these books. And the appeal of big books won't quickly go away. But, especially for those interested in intelligent analysis of current events and new ideas and arguments, there has never been a better time to be a reader.

Photo by Flickr user goXunureviews.