The Word Count Doesn’t Lie

E-books have been popular for over ten years now (the first Amazon Kindle came out November 7, 2007), which makes page count obsolete when judging the length of a book, but bookstores continue using page count when it come to e-books. As any publisher can tell you, there are many ways to play with the page count (i.e. kerning, paragraph space, font type and size,  etc…), so the only true measure for the length of a book is word count.

I know, the length of a book isn’t as important as the writing and the story, but it is something people often ask before buying a book. Some people don’t like long books, while others don’t want to read anything short. And I get that people don’t yet have a grasp of how long a book is by the word count, but they will once they get use to it. And the only way to get readers comfortable with it is to display both word count and pages with the book information. If only most of them did. Not even my go-to for e-books doesn’t show the word count, they display an approximation of pages.

There are many places to buy e-books, from publisher web sites to small bookstores to the big three. For this post, I’m only going to look at the big three bookstores:  Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo. And of the three, I have to say that Kobo gives the best information on book length.

Below are the lengths of the same title in each of the three stores.

Kobo.com
In the Kobo bookstore the consumer can easily see that this title is 83,000 words, which is 287 pages and will take roughly 6 – 7 hours to read.
Amazon.com
The Kindle edition only tells you how many pages.
BarnesandNoble.com
Barnes and Noble gives you the file size of an e-book only. How is that helpful?

Of the three bookstores, Barnes and Noble gives the least amount of helpful information when it comes to the length of the book. I also find it odd that the same title as an e-book on Kobo is 287 pages and on Amazon it’s 314 pages. I can see this type of discrepancy between mass market, trade paper and hardcover, but these are e-books. Again, this is why page count in irrelevant.

At least you have an idea of how long a book will be on Amazon, Barnes and Noble thinks you should guess how long a book is by the file size, which is the least helpful of all. Barnes and Noble is the last of the brick and mortar bookstores, so you think they would have a clue.

Hopefully bookstores will figure this out some time soon. Or at least take a hint from Kobo.


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