I think this has the potential to be very big news in our little corner of the world, though it won't feel like it until the first uptake from a university press. From the press release:
Less than 10,000 words or more than 50,000: that is the choice writers have generally faced for more than a century--works either had to be short enough for a magazine article or long enough to deliver the "heft" required for book marketing and distribution. But in many cases, 10,000 to 30,000 words (roughly 30 to 90 pages) might be the perfect, natural length to lay out a single killer idea, well researched, well argued and well illustrated--whether it's a business lesson, a political point of view, a scientific argument, or a beautifully crafted essay on a current event.
Today, Amazon is announcing that it will launch "Kindle Singles"--Kindle books that are twice the length of a New Yorker feature or as much as a few chapters of a typical book. Kindle Singles will have their own section in the Kindle Store and be priced much less than a typical book. Today's announcement is a call to serious writers, thinkers, scientists, business leaders, historians, politicians and publishers to join Amazon in making such works available to readers around the world.
For academics in the liberal arts, the options have been more like "less than 10,000 or more than 70,000"-- monographs don't typically weigh in at 50,000 words. But everyone knows that what Henry Farrell says is true: many of those 80,000 word books would have been better as 25,000 word extra-sized articles.
Presumably, the reason we don't have physical pamphlets published is because they don't make economic sense, and presumably that will continue to be the case.
But imagine what happens the first time a university press says it will publish-- "direct to digital," as it were-- peer-reviewed contributions in that 10-30,000 word range.
Departments, disciplines, and universities that draw very sharp distinctions between articles and books ("one book for tenure, two for full")