One of the books I’ve been really enjoying over the last couple of months (the ones I’ve commissioned aside, of course) is Mark Penn’s fascinating Microtrends. Penn is an American pollster famous for coining the phrase ‘soccer mums’, a small but influential group of voters who could swing elections. In Microtrends, he describes dozens of these other groups that aren’t large enough to make headlines, but still plenty big enough to change things. One movement he notes in culture is that of the rise of the long attention span – that despite culture supposedly dumbing down, there are many of watching longer films, loving The Sopranos and The Wire, and not being put off by doorstep books. There’s a graph in the book, which shows how the length of the average book has risen over the past ten years, from just under 400 pages in 1995, to just under 500 pages in 2005.
That might be a sign that people want stuff in more depth. But my first reaction as a publisher was to think, whatever happened to the art of editing?