Have you ever heard of a title called The Best Business Books Ever? I recently downloaded the Kindle sample and started reading it. It offers a very short (2-3 page) summary of of more than 100 popular business books.
The model is highly formulaic. The following elements summarize each book:
Why Read It?
Getting Started (main themes)
Contribution (most important points)
Context (immediate reaction and long-term significance)
For More Information (bibliographic info)
So in a couple of minutes you get a very good idea of what makes that book special. I'm finding I typically have one of two reactions to each summary: I either want to know a bit more on certain pieces, but not the entire book, or I have no interest in reading anything further from it. The former is happening more frequently than the latter.
These book summaries highlight the opportunity for what I've referred to before as "content layering". Think of each of these summaries as the highest-level content element. What's missing is the ability to drill down deeper into any piece. So if I've read the summary for The Art of War, I might walk away feeling this Contribution element (as noted above, the one that highlights the most important points) doesn't go far enough for me. I'd like to dig in and read excerpts from the original book; not the entire book, just the pieces that appeal to me in the summary.
So why not take an approach like The Best Business Books Ever and add a back-end to it that lets the reader connect to the original work, accessing whatever pieces they're most interested in? A nice pay-as-you-go model would work well, so you get the top-level summary for free but then readers pay per page or chapter to read the rest of the book. Btw, based on what their website says, it looks like ValoBox offers the type of pay-as-you-go functionality this model would require.
Thanks partly to society's shorter and shorter attention span, short form content's future is bright. Bite-sized nuggets are sometimes all it takes to communicate a concept. But for those situations where the reader wants more, a pay-as-you-go content model on the back-end of the summary is a pretty enticing option. It's similar to how we can now just buy the tracks we want and we're not forced to buy the entire album. There are plenty of books I'm sure I'd like to read pieces of but I'd prefer to start with a free summary to help me understand which pieces I'm willing to pay for.