Cheap Talk | Jeff | Page Numbers Are For WussiesI made the same argument some ways back about video entertainment moving online. I am looking forward to the day when TV shows are freed from the half-hour and one-hour blocks they get on broadcast. It is too limiting.
I don’t have a Kindle but I noticed that people were complaining so much about the absence of page numbers on early versions that Amazon has restored page numbers in the latest Kindle software. This adherence to tradition (in which I include prudish Professors and Editors who demand precise page references in Bibliographies) destroys a unique advantage of eBooks that could make them more than just a fragile, signal-jamming replacement for old fashioned pulp.
Suspense requires randomization. If you are reading my paper-bound novel and I want to maximize your suspense I am constrained by your ability to infer, based on how many pages are left, the likelihood that the story is going to play out as staged or whether there will be another twist in the plot. It is impossible for me to convince you of a “false ending” if you are on page 200 out of 400. The bastard publisher has spoiled it for me because 1) he has, without my permission, smeared page numbers all over my handiwork, and 2) refused to add bulk by randomly insert blank pages at the end to help me fool you.
Now Kindle, and eBook readers in general allow me to shuck that constraint. I can end the novel at any point and you would never know that the end is right around the corner. I could make it 1 page long. Imagine the effect of that! I could make it grind to a halt on page 200 only to surprise you with a development completely out of the blue that takes another 200 pages to resolve.
If I sit down to watch an hour-long cop drama at 9:00, and by 9:25 they have some suspicious guy in custody and all signs point to him being the bad guy, I know he isn't the bad guy. At least not the only one. Or there is some other wrinkle going on.They still have 35 precious minutes to fill up. No way is this the real ending of the story.
But if TV moves to an on-line, on-demand medium episodes can be however long you want them to be. You don't have to fill up exactly 42 minutes (an hour less commercials) with content. Somedays you could tell 35 minutes or story, and some days it could be 67. Do whatever you want. And I won't know what's coming.