It’s been five years since Lavin Punjabi (26) bought Shantaram, the 900-page bestseller by Gregory David Roberts. It has been sitting unread on his bookshelf ever since.
“I guess I’ll wait for the movie to be released to find out in under two hours what happens,” says Punjabi.
With shortening attention spans and a growing array of entertainment options that offer instant gratification — from TV, movies and iPods to Twitter and the Internet — youngsters are finding less and less time for full-length novels with all their twists and turns.
Which is why Indian publishers have begun offering entire ranges of novellas — books that are longer than a short story but shorter than the average paperback novel.
These books can be finished in just a few hours, while at the airport lounge or even during the daily commute.
Penguin India, which has published three books under its Metro Read label, calls them a “fun, feisty, fast read for the reader on the go.”
The stories are simple. Amrit Shetty’s Love Over Coffee, for instance, is a love story set in a Gurgaon IT company.
“A good, gripping story, and simplicity of thought,” says Vaishali Mathur, senior commissioning editor of Penguin India, summing up the concept. “We don’t want to go beyond 250 pages.”
That sounds like a good concept to Punjabi, the Mumbai-based online ad agency executive who hasn’t yet touched Shantaram.
While a quick, easy read is the criteria for Penguin India, Tranquebar’s Short Fiction series is guided by the length of the book alone — 100 to 125 pages.
“This is the ideal form for those who do not have the time to read,” says Tranquebar editor Renuka Chatterjee.
Shagun Shah (25), who owns the SOBO fashion store in Mumbai, says she likes the idea.
“I used to read a lot earlier but stopped because it ate into my work time,” she says.
“Nowadays, I prefer books that I can finish in one go.”