Short Books

by F.

Finally short books are getting their due. Publishers Weekly has a cover story on shorties:

In a world of thick, high-priced bestsellers, these pint-sized books—for lack of a better term, let’s call them vest-pocket books—all smaller than the standard cloth or trade paperback, have turned into a major success story for publishers and booksellers alike.

They cover anything and everything that’s nonfiction. There are vest-pocket books on presidents, generals, writers, Jews, philosophers, terrorism, myths, music, even issues and ethics. They come in hardcover and paperback, are inexpensive (some cost less than $10 a pop) and average about 150 pages. Most are originals, and the repackaged ones from backlist (like Penguin’s Great Ideas) come with a pedigree.

Here are some of the good ones:

Very Short Introductions (Oxford University Press)
Books in series: 141
Average first printing: 8,000 copies
Total books in print: NA
Biggest bestseller: Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Jonathan Culler (50,000 copies)
Market: General/academic
Size/format: 7″×4¾” paper
Web site: http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/series/VeryShortIntroductions/?view=usa

Great Writers in 90 Minutes (Ivan R. Dee)
Books in series: 12
Average first printing: 10,000 copies
Total books in print: 25,000 copies
Biggest bestseller: Hemingway in 90 Minutes by Paul Strathern (3,800 copies)
Market: General
Size/format: 5″×8″ hardcover/paper

Philosophers in 90 Minutes (Ivan R. Dee)
Books in series: 28
Average first printing: 10,000 copies
Total books in print: 467,000 copies
Biggest bestseller: Nietzsche in 90 Minutesby Paul Strathern (61,200 copies)
Market: General
Size/format: 5″×8″ hardcover/paper

Enterprise (Atlas/Norton)
Books in series: 7
Average first printing: 12,000 copies
Total books in print: 76,000 copies
Biggest bestseller: Rome, Inc. by Stanley Bing (14,000 copies)
Market: Business/students/general
Size/format: 5½”×8/” (hardcover); 5/”×8″ (paper)

llustrated Lives (Overlook)
Books in series: 9
Average first printing: 2,000–3,000 copies
Total books in print: 23,000 copies
Biggest bestseller: Ayn Rand by Jeff Britting (5,500 copies)
Market: General
Size/format: 4¾”×7″ hardcover/paper
Web site: http://www.overlookpress.com/biography/illustrated.shtml

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