Popular Books Are Getting Longer On Average New Study Finds, So Three Cheers For Heavy Books

For anyone who's concerned that the Internet age is both killing reading and causing Americans to have the attention span of a goldfish, I have some good news. It seems that the average length of bestselling books is getting longer. At least that's the conclusion of a new study from independent publisher Flipsnack. And in fact it might all be thanks to the digital age.

In the study, Flipsnack looked at 2,515 fiction books from the New York Times Best Seller list and Notable Books lists, and from Google’s “Most Discussed,” over the last 15 years. And what they found is that, on average, popular books are getting longer. In 1999, the average length of the books in the study was 320 pages. In 2014, the average length was 407 pages. And although the average length has fluctuated in between, overall, it's been pretty clearly on the upswing.

So what does this mean?

Well, one theory is that the rise of e-readers has actually made people more likely to read longer books. After all, when browsing in a bookstore where you can see exactly how thick a particular title is, longer books can be intimidating. On the other hand, the length of an ebook isn't as apparent and doesn't have quite the same effect. Which makes people more likely to pick up long books. Long books are also easy to carry with you on an e-reader, too.

As the Guardian points out, though, the most popular genres on e-readers typically run shorter, such as romance novels, suggesting that e-readers' overall effect would seem to be making people read more short books. So what gives?

Personally, I think it might be due to the rise of Amazon and the popularity of ordering books online. I know I've experienced the surprise of ordering books only to find when they arrived that one was more than 500 pages. Which isn't necessarily a bad surprise, but made me realize I hadn't bothered to check the page count on any of my purchases before adding them to my cart.

So are Americans more interested in long books? Are we buying them accidentally? Are we just less concerned with picking up a longer title? Who knows. The point is that it seems we are not only still reading in this day and age, but the books we read are getting longer. So let's not bemoan the death of literature in this country just yet.

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