Both Matthew Yglesias and Ben Goldacre had posts up today talking up the idea of short electronic books. (By short I mean something like 15000 to 25000 words.) Amazon is starting to promote this market with its Kindle Singles collection. And it seems like a great idea, one that should be imported into philosophy.
There are a lot of philosophical works these days that naturally fit into the fifteen to twenty-five thousand word range. Some of them get published as is, in journals that are happy with long papers (such as Philosophical Review or Philosophers’ Imprint), or in edited collections. Some of them get padded out to make short books. And several of them get broken up into chunks and published disjointedly. (Note for instance that I recently posted two papers on interest-relative invariantism; together they make one reasonably coherent 20000 word paper, but there’s really nowhere to publish that.)
Having an outlet for pieces that are too long for regular journals, but too short for books, would solve a lot of problems. As Amazon says in their promotion of Kindle Singles, we should look for ways in which a good idea can be “expressed at its natural length”. The mechanics of print publication, especially as it developed in the second half of the twentieth century, produced natural ways to publish ideas that were naturally expressed in under 15000 or over 40000 words, but left a large gap. Hopefully electronic publication can fill that gap.