Anyone glancing at year-end best book lists or recent high-profile awards couldn’t help but notice the prevalence of massive tomes like Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life or Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings. This isn’t just a passing critical fancy, either. A recent study by James Finlayson from Vervesearch confirms that books are indeed getting longer. According to the study, which looked at 2,500 books from the New York Times best seller list and Google’s annual surveys, the average book length has increased by 25 percent, from 320 pages in 1999 to 400 pages in 2014.
The Guardian interviewed multiple people from the publishing world to find out the reason for this size uptick, and got a variety of responses. Literary agent Clare Alexander called longer books a reaction against clickbait (“People who love to read appear to prefer a long and immersive narrative, the very opposite of a sound bite”) while Granta editor Max Porter credited TV for popularizing longform narratives again. “It’s shown that people have the appetite, patience and stamina to stick with a plot and characters as they develop over a large span,” he said. Survey author Finlayson thinks it has to do with ebooks. “When you pick up a large book in a shop, you can sometimes be intimidated, whereas on Amazon the size of a book is just a footnote that you don’t really pay all that much attention to,” he said, though statistics indicate many digitally-bought books go unfinished.
Whatever the reason, it’s nice to know you’re not just imagining things. Books are getting bigger, and readers are responding.