What's a Common Reader -- and what is Uncommon Reading?

Virginia Woolf defined a common reader as someone who is not a scholar; not a critic. A common reader "reads for his own pleasure rather than to impart knowledge or correct the opinions of others. Above all, he is guided by an instinct to create for himself, out of whatever odds and ends he can come by, some kind of whole." By that definition, I'm definitely a common reader -- reading an uncommonly large and diverse collection of books.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Timely Commentary on Kindle Singles!

Only a few hours after writing my earlier post about the Kindle Singles I've been reading, I spotted this article by the author of a new Kindle Single that I haven't yet read, but probably now will. In it, he comments that "essays are now the kiss of death almost everywhere in the publishing businesses... The prevailing wisdom is that nobody reads them." If true, that's horrifying -- and it probably is true. In any case, the author spells out something that I've wondered about for a while: whether there might not be a market for short segments of longer and more complex non-fiction books. In some cases, these might address specific topics of interest, but they might also pique a reader's curiosity, prodding them to buy the longer opus. Jim Cullen writes "at some point in the process of working on my new book, I found myself wondering, does this make sense as a book? Might it not make more sense as a set of five or six chapter-length e-books? Very often, instructors only use part of a book; in any case, they rarely assign the whole thing at once ... I made a pitch along these lines to a major university press, which reacted with respectful interest. It's in their future, I was told. But not yet."

Except that the bright mind at Amazon that I referred to earlier has already caught on to this...

I'll continue to keep an eye on Kindle Singles and report back on the best of them.

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