As a way of masking my disappointment that certain terrible trends come back around again, I remind myself of the wisdom of Solomon: there’s nothing new under the sun. What has been done will be done again—like fluoro and neon colours coming back into fashion recently, after a reprieve of a couple of decades. Fashion, as with many other trends, is cyclical, self-referential, even parasitic. If you freeze your wardrobe today, you’ll be cool again in 30 years time. Everything is a remix so calm down about it already, Sam.
Fortunately, this remix pattern works for good as well as ill. In the history of mass publishing, short pamphlet-length pieces on a particular topic were popular in getting one’s point of view across to a wide cross-section of the community. Political and ecclesiastical movements have been carried on the back of mass distribution of tracts—written pieces that are more than a few pages, but shorter than a book.
In recent decades, however, the changing economics of printing and distribution has meant that putting out, say, a 10,000-word essay has been a far less viable option than printing and distributing a 50,000-word book. All sorts of factors have contributed to make up this situation, but it has certainly been the case: printed tracts have, shall we say, lacked traction.
Even more recently the scene has changed again—and it’s still changing. The rise of electronic distribution across the internet, coupled with increasing access to digital material through phones and tablets, has meant that—economically, at least—the length of a written work suddenly matters much less. The prohibitive economics of print and distribution for a comparatively shorter and therefore lower-priced item now can be cut out of the equation, and as publishers we’re freer to try different things. You benefit from this digital revolution too, by the way: publishing short thoughts on Twitter and Facebook for others to read and comment on is one example of the shift I’m talking about.
At Matthias Media we’ve been making ebook versions of our print products for some time now. But in light of the shifting landscape, we’re delighted to announce we’re bringing back the shorter-form factor for focused writing. With the same aim as The Briefing—to help every Christian in their walk with God, to encourage ministry and challenge ideas, to provide resources for disciple-making—we’re launching a series of Brief Books. As you might guess, they’re a bit like a book, only shorter.
We’re confident that as a reader of The Briefing you’ll like the content of this series. Brief Books will be longer than a single article, but shorter than a book, and drawn from a range of material. It might be a stand-alone portion of a forthcoming Matthias Media title, with an opportunity for you to read and give feedback before we publish the full book. Or it might be a compilation of articles from the Briefing archives on a specific topic. Or maybe an excellent article that was just too long for The Briefing itself. Whatever it is, rest assured it will be useful and accessible stuff that nicely complements The Briefing. We’ll be releasing a new Brief Book every second month, alternating with The Briefing.
Key to this whole project is the digital distribution that enables us to publish shorter content like this. We’re providing two major channels through which you can access these Brief Books, as well as new magazine-style electronic copies of The Briefing.1 Individual issues of each Briefing issue and each Brief Book can be purchased as ebooks—from the Matthias Media store, Apple’s iBookstore and Amazon’s Kindle marketplace (search for “Brief Books Matthias Media”). They’ll be standard ebook and Kindle files, so regardless of whether you have an Android tablet or a Windows phone, you’ll be able to find an app that lets you read these wherever you want to.
In addition to the ebook formats we’ve also released a Briefing app for iOS devices (iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch). The app is free to download from the iTunes store, and through in-app purchases you can download each issue of The Briefing and each new Brief Book as they’re released, or subscribe to have everything automatically accessible. (You can subscribe just to The Briefing, or to both The Briefing and the new Brief Books series.)
Give it a try. We think you’ll love the new Brief Books format. It’s not a totally new format for reading, but it’s well worth bringing back.
- All Briefing articles will continue to be posted on The Briefing website over the two-month publication period of each edition, but many people appreciate having everything in one place, ready for reading offline. The print magazine is one way to do this; now there’s another. ↩