Suppose that an idea merited 20 pages, no more and no less? A handful of long-copy magazines [â€¦] would print 20-page essays, but an author who wished his or her work to be distributed would generally be forced to cut it down to a meaningless 5-page magazine piece or add 180 pages of filler until it reached the minimum size to fit into the book distribution system. [â€¦]
Our literary culture is impoverished when every idea is stretched or amputated to fit the Procrustean bed made up by magazine and book publishers. When an author runs out of relevant stuff to say after 20 or 30 pages, that’s how long the essay should be.
Trough the lens of what was able to be published, Greenspun sees publishing’s evolution like this:
- Pre-1990: five-page magazine articles and 200-page books.
- 1990 to 2000: any length essays, with little barrier to entry (static web pages).
- 2000 onwards: one-paragraph ideas and personal thoughts, widely available (production and consumption) with blogs.