Will books get longer in a recession?

Recessionistas make predictions – skirts will be midi, lips will be redder, hair will be shorter (I’m ahead of the game there then!), eating in will be the new eating out, and books will be longer.

Okay, I added that last one myself. But there’s a sense in which it may be true. Straws in the wind point to length mattering. The whopping auction price for Niffenegger’s second book (good luck to her, it’s nice to see an author who’s already had a hit getting rewarded, rather than a writer we’ve never heard of getting an advance for a novel that bombs) is a hint, perhaps. Books may get bigger as readers think about the investment they are making in buying them – skinny novellas for £8.99 or beach books with 400 plus pages for the same price? How many commuter mornings can you while away with the first compared to the second?

Another straw is the surprise hit of Paris theatre this spring – the Satin Slipper, by Claudel, is a bizarrely fascinating work, combining the influences of Rimbaud and the Symbolists with long lines of free verse declaimed from a stage on which the protagonist discovers that true sensual love can produce an understanding of God. Oh and by the way, it’s an eleven-hour drama-fest which gives the audience cramps from sitting in theatre seats for a full day. There are a couple of not bad translations but as they tend to start at around £100 a copy, it may be cheaper to fly over and buy a ticket.

And the final straw is a conversation I overheard in Borders – completely unscientific but it’s anecdotal evidence: first woman holding up two novels to second woman, ‘What do you think?’ Second woman ‘Hmmm, the thing is, the weather’s so changeable. I’d go with the beige, it’ll work with everything.’ First woman nods. ‘Good point – I don’t want anything that might look a bit heavy for Spring.’ She puts down the book with the purple cover and takes the book with the beige cover to the till … if you require a book to be both a good read and a fashion accessory, you’re probably well into the recessionista zone!

Big books courtesy of gabesk at Flickr


  1. Mark Hubbard
    18th March 2009

    I love that final story 🙂

  2. Zen of Writing
    23rd March 2009

    Maybe they should sell tinted plastic covers so you can customize your book to your outfit.

  3. Kay Sexton
    24th March 2009

    Anne, that’s inspired! Customised book covers, like iPod sleeves … it could save the publishing industry!


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