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100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

100 Scope Notes Special Report: Page Count Conspiracy

The following is a work of fiction.

A 100 Scope Notes Investigation

Ask anyone involved in children’s literature and they’ll tell you books for kids are getting longer. Are rising page counts due to changing tastes, a lack of editing – or something more sinister?

Some believe it is a deliberate scheme to take up as much shelf space as possible, “squeezing out” the competition.

Some credit Brian Jacques as the godfather of this trend.

Jacques Shelf 500x425 100 Scope Notes Special Report: Page Count Conspiracy

“Jacques was way ahead of his time, but he dominated shelf space with many large books. That takes years – years we don’t have. What we figured out was that this could be done much quicker with one book with an insanely high page count,” said an unnamed publishing source.

Rumors are rampant that authors of short books are increasingly being asked to up the page count, or risk having their manuscripts sent back for more additions.

Publisher Embiggen Books is leading the charge, with an internal motto – wider is gooder. The goal? To take up all the shelf space, crowding out all other books. “We’re inspired by Unabridged dictionaries – not for their content, but for their impressive size,” said an Embiggen spokesperson. “Massive books that gloriously span wide chunks of valuable shelf real estate.”

“I tacked on this really weird scene of a character going nuts on his keyboard (excerpt: lskdfjs.asidfuosaidfoiuaosejofjfs!!!ioejfosjef) for around 8 or 9 pages. I had to meet my page quota,” says an Embiggen author who spoke to 100 Scope Notes under condition of anonymity.

The trend is quickly spreading to even established authors.

“Have you heard about JK Rowlings new book? It’s 56,000 pages long. At one point the main character just says every word she knows,” reports an unnamed industry insider.

As you might expect, the e-book revolution is a concern for page count crowders.

“We’re experimenting with large file sizes that fill up hard drives and e-readers, but it isn’t the same,” laments an unnamed publishing source.

Some summer releases point to a continuation of the trend. Books like Everything: Detailed Descriptions of Every Thing, and new series Chat Room, which is a reprint of everything said in an incredibly long internet chat room discussion thread.

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About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.

Comments

  1. Wow! Really? So picture books are getting shorter and MG/YA are getting longer? Maybe instead of adding more words to increase the width, they should just increase the font size thereby gaining not only more shelf space while appealing to a middle grade audience but also a middle-aged reader :)

  2. Tim Young says:

    Books could printed in boardbook style. Your average novel would end up about 2 feet wide without having to pad out the plot..

  3. Brian Lies says:

    “Wider is gooder!” A great American motto. How about a book printed on stock so wide that it has to be placed laterally on a shelf (face out), lest it trip people trying to walk through the stacks if shelved normally (spine out)? Then page count wouldn’t really matter.

  4. I love this (and not just because I am so in love with the Redwall series that it was the subject of my Masters thesis)! There does seem to be an distinct increase in the size of books (which is good for readers of certain books, torture for others!) and it makes it very interesting to try and fit them all on the shelves.

    Another way to increase the page count would be to have more glossaries in the back of the book…I’ve read a number of books that have glossaries in the back—very handy when you’re reading a series or the books have way too many characters to keep straight. Why not have glossaries that list every single person or place referred to, even in passing, or ones that define every single word used in the book…that would really get the page count up! Better yet, why not just tack on an unabridged dictionary??? Readers would no longer be able to use the “I don’t know where I put my dictionary” excuse as to why the don’t look up words they don’t know!

  5. Erica says:

    1. Embiggen Books. Hee hee and more hee.
    2. I’ve done some quick calculations, and Ms. Rowling’s new book clocks in at approximately 12.4 feet wide. Picture a stack of pages twice the height of Arnold Schwarzenegger (or, for a more fun mental image, Lady Gaga standing on Yao Ming’s shoulders), and you’ve just about got it.

  6. Jean says:

    I have long felt sorry for authors who come in alphabetical order between Riordan and Rowling. They really don’t stand a chance.

  7. Liz says:

    Sharon suggested larger glossaries. In the same spirit, how about more complete indexes. Index every single word in the text. That ought to add at least a couple of inches.

  8. This goes against our digital age, where kids’ (and adults’) attention spans and patience for deeper reading are declining. I actually think the exact opposite of this when I hand a book to a student. If it rivals a dictionary, they want no part in it. They just don’t have time. Homework, sports, music, drama, texting friends, video games, MTV Movie Awards, Skyping your next door neighbor, email, watching the Harlem Shake over and over on YouTube… dictionary size novels don’t stand a chance in the kids’ mainstream. Besides, who shops in a bookstore anymore? :-)

  9. PragmaticMom says:

    You are so funny but, hey, owning every book Rick Riordan wrote IS taking up some serious shelf space at my house! How about just making very thick book covers instead?

  10. Hilarious post!!! I hope there’s still room out there for my 45,000 word count mid-grade novel coming out this Fall!!! :) e

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